A visit with clients to the Pearl of Africa – Lango sub-region, Uganda

In October I travelled to Uganda to meet with the CO2balance Uganda team, partner NGOs and local officials.

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Welcoming assembly

The trip included visiting our borehole projects in Kaliro and Lango. It was great to meet our committed and knowledgeable team and partners, who do a wonderful job in implementing the projects. Each borehole is managed by a Water Resource Committee, made up of local borehole users who ensure the borehole is kept clean and functioning. The Committees are trained to be “gender sensitive” and each have a gender balance of 50/50.

The main purpose of the trip was to host clients who were visiting a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project that they had funded in addition to offsetting their CO2 emissions through the Lango Safe Water Project. The CSR project worked in 2 primary schools: rehabilitating rainwater harvesting systems in both, and fixing a borehole in one and building a new pit latrine in the other.

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The new pit latrine at one primary school makes people jump for joy!

The impact of this project was fantastic. The new pit latrine gave girls a safe, hygienic and private place to use the toilet and change. This is particularly important for those in their monthly menstrual cycle. The Head Teacher said that it has reduced absenteeism and has a huge positive impact on education. The rehabilitated borehole on the school grounds gives pupils a source of clean water, without which they had to walk for many kilometres to fetch water. Again, this impacts upon education as pupils no longer tire themselves by walk to and carrying heavy loads of water. The rainwater harvesting systems capture rainwater and store it in the 16,000 litres tanks. This can be used for washing hands, cooking, cleaning and drinking.

Rain Harvesting tank (7)

Pupils now have a water source on the school grounds

It was wonderful to see the impacts these projects are having on the pupils and their communities. The visit gave the clients the opportunity to see their work first-hand and meet the people who are benefiting from the projects. Because of the stories, songs, dances and messages of thanks they received, as well as observing the projects in action, they were able to take these stories back to their company, family and friends to spread the message of sustainability. As a gesture of thanks from the schools, they received traditional water containers, brushes, 3 chickens, 2 doves and a sheep.

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Sawadee Krap to the UNFCCC in Bangkok

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is currently meeting in Bangkok to draft a rulebook for implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, which will form the basis of the COP24 Summit in Katowice, Poland in December.  The objective of the rulebook is to provide a streamlined draft which will assist discussions at the Katowice Summit where signatory states will agree the rules for implementing the Paris Agreement.

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Sectary of UN Climate Change, reported of “uneven progress” between the 195 Parties which “underlines the urgent need for continuing work”. The draft rulebook is critical for COP24 to “achieve balance across all issues” and allow for the Parties to “function together in an inter-connected manner”.

A delicate balance must be struck which brings all Parties together and recognises the differing economic, social, political and environmental circumstances between countries. Many complex issues are being discussed including country-specific climate pledges, known as nationally defined contributions (NDCs). NDCs are key to the Paris Agreement. Parties are discussing whether a “two-tier” system is appropriate, which would mean different rules for developed and developing states.

While the complex talks progress in Bangkok, one might ask “what can I do to tackle climate change?”. The UNFCCC encourages all levels of society to take climate action, including at a personal level. Relying solely on policy will not be enough to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C. The UN recommends: measuring, reducing, and compensating emissions.

When it comes to compensating emissions, CO2balance offers certified Gold Standard emission reductions. All of our projects, from boreholes to efficient cookstoves, reduce CO2 emissions by displacing the need to burn firewood as a fuel source. The benefits go beyond simply reducing emissions and have positive impacts towards the Sustainable Development Goals, such as improving gender equality, improving health and well-being and providing clean water. Read our case studies page to find out how!

Where are you going on your summer holidays?

The world-wide tourism industry is booming and worth over $7 trillion. It employs 10% of workers and brings in massive revenue for areas which may have little else. The industry is growing by 4% each year, driven by new wealth in emerging economies such as China, Brazil and Mexico.

brown hut island gazebo

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A study in Nature Climate Change found that tourism is responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions, much more than the 2.5-3% previously estimated. It found that the carbon footprint increased from 3.9 to 4.5 GtCO2e between 2009 and 2013. The most significant contributor is transport, followed by shopping and food. As with most emissions, high-income countries are responsible for the majority of this footprint. Some small island nations, such as the Maldives and the Seychelles, generate a significant proportion of income through tourism, yet are among the most at risk from sea level rise and extreme weather events caused by climate change.

The strong annual growth of tourism has surpassed efforts of the industry to decarbonise, but the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) is upbeat about the momentum seen in “a growing number of hotels, airports and tour operators that have all become carbon neutral”. A great example of this is Cochin Airport in Kerala, India, the first ever fully solar powered airport.

photography of airplane during sunrise

Photo by Anugrah Lohiya on Pexels.com

Tourism also does possess a great power to benefit some aspects of the environment and help achieve other UN Global Goals. For example, the Gorilla trekking licences in Rwanda and Uganda which fund the conservation of mountain gorillas, and the alternative livelihoods provided to small hill-tribe communities in Thailand which drives economic develop in remote areas. However, eco-tourism still has a significant carbon footprint due to the flights involved.

So, what are the solutions?

One way to mitigate the carbon footprint from your summer holiday is to offset the emissions through CO2balance’s Gold Standard carbon credits. As well as reducing CO2 emissions by reducing or removing the combustion of firewood and charcoal, CO2balance’s projects positively impact the target communities and help achieve the UN Global Goals by providing safe water, improving health by reducing indoor air pollution and creating gender equality by reducing the time required to collect firewood. Use our Flight Calculator to see the CO2 footprint from your flight and take a look at our Projects page or Contact Us to see how you can reduce your carbon footprint, help fight climate change and make a positive impact on people’s lives.

Full-steam ahead towards 1.5C!: greenhouse gas emissions of the shipping industry

The shipping industry contributes 2-3% of global GHG emissions, roughly the same as Germany. However, much like the aviation industry, it was not included in the Paris Agreement 2015 which requires nations to set out mitigation and adaptation GHG targets.

 

ship

The shipping industry handles 90% of global trade (Image from http://srpship.co.za/)

 

The UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is meeting in London this week (9th – 13th April) to discuss its emissions strategy. This was first proposed back in 1997 following Kyoto, but nothing materialised. This $4 trillion industry, which carries 90% of world trade, could also carry a fifth of global GHG emissions by 2050 if left unchecked as the industry grows while countries and industries work towards the Paris 1.5oC target by reducing and offsetting their emissions. In 2014, the IMO found that its carbon emissions could grow by 250% if action is not taken. Following this trend, the OECD found that the industry would have the emissions equivalent of over 200 coal power stations by 2035.

NGO Transparency International has raised concerns over conflicts of interest and a lack of transparency in the discussions. 43.5% of IMO’s funding comes from just 5 states: Panama, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Malta and the Bahamas. Here, half of the world’s ships are registered.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called for an ambitious agreement to make the sector “cleaner and greener”, but how far will the final plan, expected in 2023, go?

The EU supports a goal of reductions between 70-100% by 2050, while Norway has called for a 50% reduction by this date and Japan supports a reduction of 50% by 2060. The Secretary General of IMO Kitack Lim said that postponing an initial strategy “should not be an option”, and MEP Bas Eickhout declared, that should they fail in doing so, “countries will have to take their own actions”.

So, how can these targets be met?

The Good Shipping Program suggests a sustainable advanced biofuel instead of burning black carbon. Could this be advanced by businesses and consumers wanting a greener supply chain? The Smart Green Shipping Alliance makes a case for 100% renewable powered ships with the “attractive economic attributes” of a free, abundant and exclusive power source.

 

Adak

Here is a community borehole in Adak, Uganda, rehabilitated and maintained by CO2balance

 

One thing is for sure. Where it is not possible to reduce CO2 emissions within the industry, whether it be at the highest level of the IMO or the smallest private ship, CO2balance can provide Gold Standard carbon credits to offset these emissions. All of our projects work towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals, so offsetting your emissions (shipping or otherwise) with CO2balance not only reduces CO2 emissions and help reach the climate goals set out in the Paris Agreement, but also helps achieve goals of Good Health, Gender Equality, Clean Water and Infrastructure for rural communities in countries including Uganda, Malawi and Eritrea.

Giving Power to rural women

With the support of Australian High Commission in Kenya in the 2015 Carbon Zero Kenya partnered with a women group (Umeme women group) in Western Kenya in Kisumu West to produce 900 cook stoves and sell them within the community. The women were empowered with skills in stove production and marketing.

Toshiba Case study 8 - 00

The aim of the Umeme Women’s Group Improved Cook Stove Project was to set up a self sustaining cook stove enterprise that was to construct and sell stoves within the local community. The project created some source of income for the women and thus enabling them improve their living standards.

Just to offer some background an acute shortage of fuel for cooking is one of the many problems faced by people in Kisumu West as it is the case in other parts of the country. Gathering fuel is generally women’s work but is fraught with dangers; they gamble with the risk of rape and life threatening attacks during their search for much needed firewood, in order to feed their families. In certain areas, local sources of firewood are completely depleted, leading women to travel further and further afield or to dig up tree roots, eliminating any chance of the trees growing again. Even if women survive this, they are still exposing themselves and their children to potentially deadly smoke fumes.

With the above challenges in mind and the financial support from the Australian High Commission Carbon Zero decided to tackle the challenges in Kisumu West through the use of more fuel-efficient Carbon Zero Artisanal Stove, which is both affordable and easy to use; cutting the amount of risky trips for firewood and allowing more trees the opportunity to grow. Subsequently, burning smaller amounts wood fuel means less smoke will engulf their homes and their lungs.

Carbon Zero Kenya mapped out several women groups in the area; vetted them and settled on one that was most convincing – Umeme women group. The group of ten women was well trained both in theory and practicals of artisanal stove production. After which the women were supported to source for materials and stove parts and produced a total of 900 cook stoves that they marketed within their community. The revenues collected from the sales helped the women earn an extra income. In addition the women started making weekly savings into a central kitty that they have been able to invest overtime further raising their incomes which has in a big way boosted their living standards.

Diana   is one of the women group members; the secretary of the group. Speaking to her she elaborates that prior to this project had always used the three stone cooker ever since she was born and had never seen an alternative cook stove. She says that previously she didn’t know how expensive it was sustaining a three stone stove. Knowing well that Kisumu West has fewer forests with most land under farming the only way to get firewood was and still is through buying. While using the three stone stove she says she used to buy wood worth 800/= Kenya shillings per week and this was too expensive for her.

Toshiba Case study 8 - 5

However she says that her turning point came in 2015 when together with the other women were selected to be trained on how to manufacture artisanal stoves and market them within their community. Diana says that after they were trained as a group they produced a total of 900 stoves that they sold out to locals. She gained skills in stove production, maintenance and also simple business skills that have been very essential in her life thereafter. As a group under her leadership the proceeds from sale of stoves were put into a table banking revolving fund that members have overtime been borrowing and paying back with little interest. She says that many group members have borrowed money and paid school fees for their children, some have borrowed to start different businesses and as they pay back their revolving fund has been growing and today they have even increased their membership.

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Diana explains how she borrowed from the group and started vegetable farming. The project has been on for the last two years and the returns are good. She is able to get an extra income to pay fees for her kids while at the same time get something to keep making contributions in the women group.  She explains that since she did not have formal employment she couldn’t borrow from the bank hence the capital they got from the sales of the stoves helped inject capital into their group that has seen them grow both individually and as a group in ways she cannot explain.

She further explains that many women call her within the local community at times to repair their stoves when they have for instance cracks and they pay her helping earn her earn her income.  She says today she her community as a stoves maintenance expert in the community. Within her own home Diana says that ever since she received the CZK stove she has seen a big difference in her life. For instance the improved cook stove saves wood fuel which enables her channel some of the money she would spend buying firewood to other development projects. As we part Diana says that for her the biggest thing out of the stove production enterprise set by Carbon Zero is that she was able to save and start a farming venture that has really improved her family’s income. She says that the project gave them power to improve their lives and turn around their fate.

 

Counting the cost

Human life requires cooking, which means having access to fuel. Most families across the globe especially in developing nations depend on traditional stoves for cooking. These stoves emit a huge amount of smoke that affects the families.

For anyone who relies on an open fire to cook daily meals, the need for fuel rivals that for food itself. It’s common knowledge that almost everywhere on earth people cook, but that is not all, the question is yes you cook; but how do you do it? Are you using the traditional three stone stoves or an energy efficient stove? And do you know that the stove you use for cooking has an effect on your health, the environment and even beyond? According to recent estimates by the World Health Organization, up to 1.6 million women and children die every year from breathing polluted air in their homes. Respiratory and vision problems occur in mostly women and children because they spend significant time indoors tending to cooking fires.

Open fires 1

Another critique with traditional wood fires is the inefficiency in fuel consumption. Traditional wood fires are inefficient at transferring the released energy into the cooking vessel. Most of the released energy in the wood is wasted heating the surrounding air rather than heating the cooking vessel. The inefficient transfer of energy requires the user to use more wood fuel, increasing the amount of wood harvested from the surrounding environment. The increased demand for wood can further deplete the already stressed local natural environment.

Even worse is the fact that the burden of accessing firewood  always fall on women and girls, as they are responsible for cooking family meals in most rural communities. This compels them to walk for long distances to find sufficient firewood to cook for their families. Firewood collection is at times incredibly dangerous, exposing them to the risk of physical and sexual violence. Sadly, every day, millions of women and children risk being raped, attacked either my human beings with ulterior motives or even animals as they collect firewood.

Open fires 2

From the above photo Carbon Zero as one of the main environmental companies in Kenya is tackling these issues through the use of more fuel-efficient woodstoves, which are both affordable and easy to use; cutting the amount of risky trips for firewood and allowing more trees the opportunity to grow. Subsequently, burning smaller amounts wood fuel means less smoke will engulf their homes and their lungs. This further translates into improved health and time savings for households, in preservation of forests and associated ecosystem services, and in reducing emissions that contribute to global climate change.

People Power will ‘Trump’ the President

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:

 

  • Ignore Donald Trump

 

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”.