A small but important announcement was made late last year as world leaders debated the way forward on climate legislation at COP 21 – the Fairtrade Climate Standard was released. This new venture – in partnership with the Gold Standard Foundation – aims to further utilise carbon offset projects to increase skills, knowledge and financial flows to producer communities in countries in the Global South. As one of the most trusted brands in Britain, Fairtrade have not taken their decision to enter a new market lightly and the key driver behind their involvement is the inherently unfair nature of climate change.
Hand on heart, most of us recognise that climate change is largely a problem caused by the developed world, however it is not common knowledge that a cruel climatic irony is at play. The majority of people in developing countries are small scale producers or smallholders dependent on crops and livestock as both a means of subsistence and income. These people are therefore the most vulnerable to weather extremes in a changing climate, but are also the people that have made little – if any – contribution to the cause of it. A staggering 80% of the world’s food is produced on land less than 2 hectares in size – when you consider that most of this is vulnerable to a changing climate, the scale of the challenge makes Fairtrade’s intervention understandable and very welcome.
I have just returned from Bonn where I attended a workshop at Fairtrade’s HQ on the key operating procedures defined in the newly published standard. Just like Fairtrade bananas and coffee, I learned that a key feature of a Fairtrade offset is that a so-called Fairtrade premium must be paid to the producers (not developers) of the carbon credit. (In a cookstove project, this is the people who have swapped their 3 stone fire for an improved cookstove.) This premium must then put to use for the collective good of the producers in the way that has been democratically decided by that group to be most appropriate for their needs. In a traditional Fairtrade supply chain, this premium is typically used to invest in improved processing techniques, organic fertilisers or similar things that will add value or improve working practices. A Fairtrade carbon offset is different; the premium must be invested in climate adaptation activities – thus enabling and empowering producers to prepare for a changing climate. Project Facilitators, like co2balance, will assist producer groups by transferring knowledge about climate adaptation practices (such as improved irrigation practices or water storage) to deliver extra impact within the offset project. Now that the Fairtrade standard has been approved after exhaustive revisions, the rest of 2016 will see it being trialled by around 20 projects, including one of our own. We are very excited about what it can bring to the carbon market and shall continue to keep helping shape its development.
Discussions continue in Paris this week at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP) as politicians from all over the world begin their final push to reach a new global accord for action on climate change. Negotiations are due to conclude on Friday but could roll on in to the weekend with some sleepless nights as many key disagreements are yet to be settled.
Though major steps forward have been made, it is becoming clear that the agreement in Paris will only form part of the solution and also, how businesses will be one of the most influential actors on climate change. Just this week there has been calls from many sectors for businesses to aim carbon neutrality by 2050 and limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Now, with the new international agreement on the horizon and wide calls for global price on carbon, businesses are beginning to see value-at-stake from action on climate change. Changing public perceptions, increased energy costs and changing weather patterns, all represent risks to businesses and should be treated as such. By measuring carbon footprints and investing both internally in energy efficiency and externally in climate change mitigation to offset carbon emissions that cannot be reduced, there are multiple benefits to be realised.
Last week ICROA, of which CO2balance are members, launched a series of videos from just a few businesses that have recognised the benefits of offsetting as part of broader carbon management strategy, setting out the clear business case. Endorsed by Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), it will feature at this year’s COP to highlight offsetting as a vital part of the solution set to meet global emission reduction goals.
By supporting carbon-offset projects, businesses are investing in the local environment, communities and benefits that extend far beyond the carbon reductions. We now look forward to the conclusion of this week’s negotiations and hope for a strong, binding agreement that sets a clear path to a low carbon future.
Since 2013, CO2balance has been developing a number of borehole rehabilitation projects in Uganda under the Gold Standard voluntary carbon offset scheme. After almost 2 years, we are glad to announce that 4 VPAs in the Lango sub-region (Dokolo, Alebtong and Otuke 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 Uganda who have worked extensively with the communities and other local stakeholders to garner support and ensure that there is participation at all levels. Although this may seem straightforward, in practice there are a plethora of challenges that need to be negotiated especially when operating in such remote and poverty stricken environments.
Between 1987 and 2007, the Lango sub-region was subject to countless human rights atrocities by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which has had long lasting impacts on the social and economic fabric of the affected areas . It is estimated that over 20,000 children were abducted by the LRA many of whom were forced to commit horrific acts of violence. Around 1 million people fled their homes and ended up moving to temporary camps for the internally displaced (IDPs). The prolonged period of conflict inevitably led to the deterioration of institutions and basic services. All the challenges related to rebuilding a war-torn region are evident, from stabilising the economy and restoring infrastructure to reintegrating former members of the LRA and addressing human rights abuses.
Memorial Site for the 2004 LRA Massacre in Otuke District
Building a biogas plant for a local school in Barlonyo
Over the last 3 years, CO2balance has rehabilitated 41 boreholes in the Lango sub-region which supply clean water to over 20,000 people who previously relied on open water sources such as lakes and ponds. As local governments lack sufficient funds for water infrastructure, these projects are playing a small but important role in the region’s post conflict development.
CO2balance realises that community participation is crucial to the long term success of its projects
One of CO2balance’s rehabilitated boreholes in the Lango sub-region
Last week we welcomed two new Carbon Projects Officers into the team to help manage the growing portfolio of projects that CO2balance are implementing. Both Antonis and Ethan completed their masters degrees at Edinburgh University and come to us full of knowledge on all things carbon. New members joining the team is always an exciting time for both old and new alike and we can’t wait to see what fresh ideas they bring to the company.
Over the coming weeks and months I am sure you will get to know them more as they begin to pick up their own projects as well as contributing to the blog but until then I hope you will join us in welcoming them to the CO2balance family!
CO2balance is pleased to announce that it has recently submitted 4 micro scale projects to the Gold Standard Foundation for listing. This marks a milestone in our work to date with Concern Universal in Malawi and lays the foundations for scaling up our partnership further.
The projects in question aim to provide safe water to households in rural Malawi through a programme of borehole repairs and drilling followed by a preventative maintenance programme to ensure they continue to provide clean water to communities for the entire 7 year life time of the project.
While Malawi continues to invest and make progress in water sector development, there are still issues of functionality and equity across the country with some districts including Dowa and Kasungu remaining among the least served, estimated at 41% and 61% respectively. Safe water access is even worse across the districts with 24% of the population having access to safe water in TA Dzoole; 26% in TA Kayembe and 32% in TA Chakhaza in Dowa district; 24% in TA Santhe and 40% in TA Kawamba in Kasungu districts.
This is in part due to the high variability and climatic extremes present in this area of continent, but the primary reason is a lack of infrastructure and functionality issues. Water stress has been shown to be a key barrier in achieving economic development, so achieving the growth necessary to invest in infrastructure remains out of reach in a vicious cycle driven by poverty.
Decentralised water purification systems (such as boreholes and domestic filtration devices) offer a less expensive route to clean water security, but the costs involved in even these small scale interventions are prohibitive for most people at a domestic level. Therefore the traditional technique of boiling water remains the only viable method of purifying water for households and around 5% of domestic energy in Africa (primarily in the form of non renewable biomass) is used to treat water in this manner. This project aims to remove the energy barrier of purifying water through boiling by repairing, drilling and maintaining boreholes in undeserved rural communities.
On Tuesday the 25th March we welcomed Dr Ian Williams from CaplorHorizons into the CO2balance office in Taunton to provide leadership training to various members of the organisation. Amongst other things CaplorHorizons aims to inspire sustainability in business and communities as well as delivering training programmes that build remarkable teams. The session covered many areas and there was plenty to take on board as we thought about what makes an effective leader and how we might improve our own leadership styles.
This week I was fortunate enough to be invited to Mara Bushtops, a safari camp located in a private conservancy on the edge of the Masai Mara National Reserve. The aim of the visit wasn’t rest and relaxation but to understand the types of environmentally friendly initiatives they have already implemented and discuss ways that they could build on them by possibly leveraging carbon finance as an alternative revenue stream.
But as this is a luxury camp it wasn’t all hard work and I was made to feel more than welcome right from the start as I was met by Daniel, the Head Ranger, at the airstrip with coffee and cakes to refresh me before the short drive to the camp. For those unfamiliar with the conservancy approach it is a land management strategy that allows wildlife and livestock to co-exist through careful management of grazing. The results were clear to see as we passed from one conservancy to another through un-managed areas where the trees and wildlife would instantly disappear and the landscape became barren. In return for allowing the camp to use their land and reducing grazing on it the Masai are also paid a set fee per hectare of land that they give over to the initiative; clearly a “win-win” for all involved.
Mara Bushtops have taken significant steps to lower their impact on the area and boost their eco-credentials; from a kitchen garden that supplies a good proportion of their vegetables to solar hot water and electricity throughout the camp. Not to mention LED lighting and a “fridge” that keeps the produce cool without needing any power. But it’s not just about the camp, they actively support the local community and in particular the local school which now has a computer lab and will soon have a dinning hall for the kids as well as two new dorms for those that board.
There was a lot to discuss and there is great potential to build on what they have already achieved in a relatively short space of time. Watch this space to see how things develop!