It is now official: Donald Trump will withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change. As the reactions flood in from across the globe, ranging from disappointment to outrage, it is important to recognise some of the positives:
- America will most likely still reduce its emissions no matter what Trump does due to the low price of natural gas, rapidly falling cost of renewables and huge growth in electric vehicles
- If a president committed to tackling climate change moves in to the Oval Office in 2020, there is chance that the US will still hit their original NDC
- Donald Trump does not represent America: as I write, representatives from American businesses, cities and states are preparing to submit a plan to the UN pledging to meet the GHG emissions targets set out under the Paris accord
When considering the problem of a president who has surrounded himself with climate change sceptics, who is poised to row-back on environmental policy from the last administration, and undermine the global efforts on climate change, there seems to be one solution:
The markets, the people and the world will leave him behind. The growth jobs in the US and across the world are in clean tech; the solar industry already employs more than twice the number of people than in the coal industry. Increasing numbers of businesses are being proactive, building sustainability in to their strategies through setting science-based carbon reduction targets and procuring renewable energy sources.
Government can play a powerful role in shaping the competitive landscape. In this case however, it will not be Washington that determines whether America contributes to the efforts to tackle climate change; every day and at every step, it is the people who will make the decisions that, in the words of French President Emmanuel Macron, will “make our planet great again”.
Since the beginning of our work in Eritrea, working together with our project partner we have moved quickly to develop a number of fantastic community-led projects across the country.
Early this year, the team completed their work guiding local communities in building sustainable improved cook stoves. More than 3600 stoves have been constructed in less than two years – a fantastic achievement – and the knowledge and experience that has been passed on is invaluable.
Late last year work began on borehole projects based in Zoba Debub, the southern region in Eritrea. There are plans to rehabilitate broken down boreholes in more than 100 villages with many already fixed, and work together with the communities to maintain the boreholes and ensure access to clean, safe water for many years to come.
Both of these projects have huge impacts on the prosperity of local communities as their health improves and they reduce the money spent and time collecting both firewood and water. We will continue with our work this year to ensure as many people as possible benefit.
This month I was lucky enough to be able to visit the fantastic projects that are being implemented in partnership with Vita, an Irish NGO. Vita are working with communities across the country to build capacity and work towards sustainable livelihoods, building efficient cook stoves and rehabilitating non-functioning boreholes.
Below are a selection of photos from my visit:
View from escarpment
Original water source
Witnessing some of the harsh climatic conditions first-hand highlighted the need for the efficient use of resources and these projects make a huge contribution to support rural communities.
I am incredibly grateful to the team in Eritrea for hosting me and showing me the ongoing work in a fascinating country during my time there. Yikenyelna!
Last month, I returned from a trip to Ethiopia and Kenya where I was able to see projects that are in their infancy but also some of our well-established projects. It was great to see people’s enthusiasm for the projects with the expectation that the projects would make a measurable difference in their lives but also be able to talk to people that have experienced a change and who express their appreciation.
In Ethiopia I attended stakeholder meetings for 5 new projects that are being established together with one of our project partners. It was fantastic to see how professional and thorough the team were in organising the meetings but also how engaged the local communities and also local government were in the work that is planned for the area.
In Kenya, I visited our projects in Meru and close to the coast around Shimba Hills. The contrast in the landscapes and experience from the two different parts of the country was striking, from the fertile soils around Mount Kenya to the vast plains around Kasigau, near Shimba Hills, both were incredible! As always I was impressed by the relationship that our field staff have built with the communities since the project was established and their knowledge of the local area.
I want to say a big thank you, ameseginalehu and asante to both teams for the trip; it is one I will remember!
Last month I returned from a site visit to four of our Kenyan cook stove projects; Aberdares, Kisumu, Eldoret and Mathira. During my time I saw Kenya’s beautiful scenery, saw the country’s passion and entrepreneurship and met some fantastic people. During the conversations I had with the beneficiaries of our projects, they expressed how the stoves had made tangible changes to their lives with sentiments that I will remember for many years. Below is a small selection of pictures from my trip:
A woman tends to her stove as she makes chai
From left to right, Richard, Virginia, Shreya, Moses and Lilian, on a cloudy day in Aberdares
Coffee plants grow in the shade of the banana trees
If you are going to paint, why not make it colourful?
Beautiful landscapes surrounded us near Kisumu
We met an inspiring local women’s group building stoves for local communities
A local farmer invited us to see his crops and offered a bag of tree tomatoes as a gift to the team!
Asante sana to all of the Kenya team!
CO2balance celebrated another milestone last week as we issued another of our Kenyan Improved Cook Stove projects under the Gold Standard. Situated in the coastal region of Kenya, the beautiful beaches are a popular tourist destination but local populations are still reliant on wood fuel and traditional three-stone fires for cooking. Over the past years we have monitored how our stoves have been helping to reduce the use of firewood leading to economic and health benefits for local people as well as lowering carbon emissions.
Since 1990 Kenya has lost on average 0.32% forest cover per year and though that does not sound very significant, it equates to more than 250,000 ha. This burden has fallen disproportionately on the coastal region of Kenya where fewer tree cover gains have been observed and our project is one that is helping to combat this decline. Biomass energy has hovered around 70% of total energy requirements for Kenya and seen little reduction in 40 years. 90% of this demand comes from the domestic sector and by providing more efficient cooking stoves, we can help to reduce the total demand for energy and therefore, wood, leading to multiple benefits for local people and the local environment.
Next week, on April 22nd, the environment will come under focus as the world celebrates another annual ‘Earth Day’; this one bears more significance than most as world leaders gather at the United Nations in New York to sign the Paris Agreement. As the Paris Agreement will no doubt gain extra media attention next week, we look at the ‘need-to-knows’ of this historic accord.
Haven’t they already agreed?
The signing is the second of three steps before the Paris Agreement takes effect with the first being the adoption of the text by negotiators at COP21. The final stage will be the ratification by individual nations at a later date.
What’s the big deal?
This is set to be the largest single-day signing of an international agreement and represents a monumental diplomatic feat as almost every nation reaches a consensus on the need for concerted efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Didn’t we know that already?
For years there has been overwhelming scientific consensus on the dangers of climate change under a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario however political logjams have marred any significant international efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The innovative approach to discussions in Paris were widely regarded as being key to achieving successful negotiations.
So what did they actually agree?
The text of the agreement centred around a few key numbers:
- Limit global warming to 2°C (while aiming for 1.5°C)
- 189 countries submitted targets in the form of Intended National Determined Contributions (INDCs) accounting for 99% of global emissions
- Countries must re-assess their targets every 5 years (from 2023); they cannot lower them and are encouraged to set more ambitious targets over time
The final question is when will it take effect? The agreement needs to be ratified at a national level by 55 countries representing 55% of emissions. It is possible that enough countries will move it through the approval process for that to happen this year however given the varying domestic approval timelines, 2017 is more likely.
In the meantime, there are constant and growing efforts from businesses, organisations and individuals around the world to reduce their own impact. Progress has been slow to get to where we are now but the pace is accelerating; the more we do, the more we abate the negative impacts of climate change and next Friday will be one step further along the path.