The latest international conference on climate change has concluded in Doha, with the predictable "low-ambition" results. Meanwhile, reports proliferate on the disastrous consequences for Africa and the entire planet if governments do not begin to overcome their lethargy in slowing carbon emissions and preparing for adaptation to the changes from global warming already built into the global system.
The latest reports from the Global Carbon Project on CO2 Emissions for 2011 (http://tinyurl.com/b8kjncx) show that China, with 9.1 gigatons, has already surpassed the United States (5.4 gigatons) and the European Union (3.6 gigatons) in total emissions. The United States remains the leading carbon polluting country per capita, with 17.1 tons per capita compared to 7.2 for the European Union and 6.7 per China. Among African countries, most with low total and per capita emissions, South Africa (with 10.2 tons per capita) surpasses the European Union, and even its total of 0.52 gigatons is only slightly less than that of Germany (0.74 gigatons).
While the historical responsibility for global warming clearly lies with the industrialized countries, the need for urgent action applies to all countries, including African countries, newly industrializing giants such as China and India as well as the industrial West, both in terms of national interest and in the interest of the planet.
Before governments will act, however, more and more activists are concluding, there must be a quantum leap in visible public demand for action. One hope for such a change may lie in the rapidly growing movement for divestment from fossil fuel companies. At U.S. universities, a divestment movement, launched in November, is already active at more than 100 campuses, and is looking to the history of the anti-apartheid movement for precedents.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains several recent articles on practical actions that can be taken to work against global warming and for climate change in Africa: a statement from the African Climate Justice Alliance released in late November, a summary of the 350.org campaign for divestment from fossil fuels, an article from the Madison, Wisconsin newspaper The Isthmus on links being made by current activists with the antiapartheid divestment campaign (including quotes from an interview with the AfricaFocus editor), and a short report on a new study from the World Future Council on how feed-in tariffs can be used to promote more rapid growth of renewable energy in Africa.
This Bulletin also includes at the end a selection of additional links to a number of new reports stressing the devastating scientific predictions and the urgency for action on climate change, in contrast to the lethargic response of the international and national political systems to the issue.
Africa must not sign a suicide pact at Doha
Pan African Climate Justice Alliance
2012-11-28, Issue 608
The solutions for avoiding climate disaster pursued by rich Western nations cannot effectively address the crisis. African civil society organizations want developed countries to accept responsibility.
Doha, Qatar, 28-11-2012: African civil society representatives attending the 18th Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Doha, Qatar, coalescing under the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance set out their concerns and demands at the conference on Tuesday setting out some key demands they expect to come from the meeting.
This is amidst signs of business as usual in the negotiations. The views and demands of African Civil Society, coming together under the auspices of PACJA were made clear at two press conferences organized by PACJA.
This was unprecedented and only a demonstration of the extent to which the Alliance is not only frustrated at the character and pace of negotiations but also its resolve to push for the agenda of the many vulnerable citizens of the countries of the continent who stand to suffer the most from the negative impacts of climate change.
The message highlighted current flaws in the multilateral system of negotiation whose transparency is inadequate, allows for the pursuit of lase solutions such as through carbon markets and ignores the historical obligation to compensate those least responsible yet hardest hit by impacts of an increasingly warming Mother Earth.
In addition, the Alliance called for serious attention to the disproportionate nature of the impacts of climate change on men and women in low income countries and that this should be reflected in decisions made at Doha, particularly in the means for adaptation.
At a press conference, the African CSOs push that developed countries should acknowledge that they have used their own fair share of earth atmospheric space and must take measures to reduce domestic emissions.
They demanded that the developed countries should finance and transfer technology to enable Africa to follow a less polluted path without compromising development.
They equally demanded that compensation for the adverse effects of the historical and current per-capita emission that burden Africans with the rising climate-related adaptation costs and damages.
Lost opportunities should be paid for and technology transfer should be at no cost.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCC, came into force in 1994 and the Conference of Parties, COP, to the UNFCC has been meeting annually to assess progress in dealing with climate change.
The COP (supreme body of the convention and associations of countries that are party to the convention) serves as Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, CMP, whose annual meeting incidentally coincides.
The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 and legally binds developed countries to emission reduction target.
But, the developed countries are putting intellectual property rights ahead of technology transfer.
The CSOs from this position want to see a safe Africa with a low carbon concentration in the atmosphere and that global warming returns to below 1 degree Celsius above per-industrial levels.
Africa opposes the global goal of less than 2 degrees for the fact that this would be commensurate to incineration and limiting modern development.
Recognizing the risk posed by climate change to food security and the livelihood of our farmers and rural poor communities, Africa wants to see atmospheric concentration stabilize within a given time to safeguard food production.
In this vein, Africa demands that the West protect and compensate the poor by upholding the polluters must pay principle while providing achievable solutions.
They wish that the outcome of Doha respect Africa's interests.
These among many others is born out of the argument that Africa bear the burden of climate change though responsible for only 4 percent of the carbon emissions while the developed world is responsible for about 70 percent of carbon emissions.
However, CSOs point that the scientific community has led Africa to focus on the symptoms rather than the causes.
The rich countries propose goals that instead risk suffering for Africa while offering insufficient reduction and inadequate funding.
The fear is that instead of implementing the Koyto protocol, the only legal binding instrument between the developed countries (that have caused the problem) and the developing countries (who never caused the problem), developed countries are avoiding the protocol.
The US for example signed, never ratified and unsigned the protocol thus pushing some countries to leave the protocol as it would be favourable for them and their economy. This is not fair for African countries, PACJA Chair argued.
African countries are calling for a change in the production and consumption system that treats the earth as a laboratory. As system is need where there is respect for mother earth, he said.
Campaign Spreads to Over 100 Campuses!
Jamie Henn - November 29, 2012
[Text of article only. For this article with links included, and additional resources, go to http://gofossilfree.org/]
Wow! We launched this new fossil fuel divestment campaign this November 7 and in less than a month campaigns have sprung up on over 100 colleges and universities across the country. From big schools like the University of Michigan to small liberal arts colleges like Amherst, the idea of divestment is spreading like wildfire.
It's hard to keep up with everything that's going on across the country, but here are a few updates from the growing movement. Earlier this month, Unity College in Maine became the first in the nation to meet our demands and fully divest from fossil fuels (Hampshire College in Massachusetts has also passed a sustainable investment policy that effectively divests them from fossil fuels). At Harvard, a student resolution supporting divestment just passed with 72% of the vote and students are now pushing to meet with President Faust about divestment. Just north, UNH students will be delivering 1,000 signatures to their president today to call for a meeting on divestment (they're already getting AP coverage for the action). Down the coast, at Brown, students are also rallying to today to push their administration to divest from coal.
Over in the midwest, students are calling on the Badgers to divest and just published an editorial in the University of Wisconsin's campus newspaper (more editorials are popping up across the country, like this one from Cornell). At University of Colorado in Boulder, students are preparing for a big Do The Math tour stop next week. And out in California, the five Claremont colleges have banded together to push for divestment across the system. Not to be outdone, the University of California schools are also hard at work, joining with our partners at the California Student Sustainability Coalition to push for divestment.
The campaign has even made it up to Canada! Check out this article from the McGill Daily about the student effort there to divest from fossil fuels, especially the dirtiest of dirty fuels, the Canadian tar sands. Speaking of Tar Sands, earlier this month a group that included some of the largest investors in the world, with over $2 trillion in assets between them, called the current development of the tar sands environmentally unsustainable and demanded immediate changes.
Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus rallies another sell-out crowd at Do The Math and calls on historically black colleges to divest from fossil fuels.
Off-campus, the divestment campaign is also heating up. On the first day of our Do the Math tour, the Mayor of Seattle announced that he would be looking into divesting the city from fossil fuels. Not to be outdone, the Mayor of Portland said that he could look into the matter as well. Over in Vermont, there's already talk about legislation to divest the state from fossil fuels.
We're also generating some great national media coverage. Here's a piece from PRI's Living on Earth that profiles efforts in Massachusetts. The Nation has been running a great series covering the campaign, with lots of guest posts from students. It's great to see Campus Progress picking up the beat as well. Meanwhile, the Do the Math tour is getting the spotlight in everywhere from Rolling Stone to papers like the Seattle Times. Keep your eyes out for some more big articles coming up. (Oh, and did we mention that the tour stop in DC also included a 3,000 person rally against the Keystone XL pipeline? That was great too.)
With so much going on, it's been hard to keep up ??" and we're still on the first month! As Bill is fond of saying from the stage, this is still a David vs. Goliath fight: the fossil fuel industry is the richest industry in the history of the universe. That said, it's incredibly inspiring to see things moving so quickly. And, remember the story: David wins.
On we go!
Global warming activists with 350 Madison Climate Action Team want to force change through UW divestment campaign
Taking cues from the anti-Apartheid movement
Joe Tarr on Wednesday 11/21/2012
When William Minter was a graduate student at UW-Madison in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he was active in a group pushing the university to sever connections with companies doing business in South Africa, then under Apartheid.
Most activists at the time were focusing on the Vietnam War, and the divestment campaign seemed trifling in comparison. "People said, 'It's really not going to have a lot of impact," Minter remembers. "The fact is, at first it wasn't that great."
But over the next two decades, the movement slowly gained force. Years after Minter left Madison, the UW did pull its investments out of South Africa. And eventually the economic pressure around the country helped topple the Apartheid regime. In 1994, South Africa held fully democratic elections that brought Nelson Mandela to power.
Now, a new group of student activists is using this model in its efforts to force change on global warming. 350 Madison Climate Action Team is gearing up to pressure the UW-Madison to withdraw investments from all companies that cultivate oil, coal and natural gas.
"This is the issue of our generation," says Kevin Mauer, a UW student involved with 350 Madison Climate Action Team. "As students, the university is a very large organization that we have special influence on."
"The university has been very good about operating in a sustainable way," says Emmy Burns, another student activist, referring to the school's efforts to reduce waste and use energy efficiently. "But this is so much bigger than that."
You'd think Bill McKibben would be a bit depressed. The writer and activist has dedicated the last several years of his life to drawing attention to the issue of global warming, forming the national 350.org in 2008. The "350" refers to the amount of carbon, in parts per million, that scientists consider a safe maximum to avoid catastrophic climate change. Yet this year, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere reached 395 parts per million. Despite this, the issue got almost no attention during the presidential campaign from either major candidate.
"It's one of these situations where things keep getting worse and worse," McKibben says. "We've raised the temperature of the planet one degree, which means the Arctic is now melting. Two degrees will be a lot worse. If we go past that, it's going to be a science fiction world."
Yet, on the Friday after the presidential election, McKibben sees reason for hope. For one thing, people under 30 voted in record numbers; their votes alone accounted for President Obama's reelection margin.
"We know in that age group, one of the biggest issues is climate change, which makes sense," he says. "If you've got another 60 years on this planet, it behooves you to know the last 40 aren't going to suck."
McKibben also points to surveys that show 74% of the country now believes global warming is a serious issue. "That's more Americans than you can get to agree on anything."
But McKibben - who speaks at the Masonic Center, 301 Wisconsin Ave., at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29 - has given up waiting for Washington to take action. He's touring the country on a bus powered by alternative fuels on his "Do the Math" tour. Using the South African campaign as a model, McKibben is urging people to pressure institutions to pull their investments from oil, gas and coal companies.
These companies, he says, have in their reserves five times the amount most governments believe it would be safe to burn without causing catastrophic climate change. "In other words, it's a rogue industry."
"We want the University of Wisconsin and all the other colleges and churches and everyone else to sell their stock in fossil fuel companies," McKibben says. "It's not all right to be profiting from the wreckage of the planet."
Two colleges, Unity College in Maine and Hampshire College in Massachusetts, have so far heeded McKibben's call.
Burns and Mauer hope UW-Madison can be added to the list. And they're using McKibben's visit to kick the campaign off in earnest. The group is focusing its energies, for now, on the UW Foundation, which is based in Madison. The foundation has more than $2.5 billion in investments. Mauer and Burns say they've been unsuccessful in trying to meet with the foundation's stewards.
Mike Knetter, president and CEO of the foundation, wouldn't comment in detail about the campaign or the foundation's investments. "I haven't heard from them, so I don't have any firsthand knowledge," he says. "There's a lot of companies we don't invest in, but we make those decisions one at a time."
The students don't know the precise amount of money the foundation has invested in fossil fuel companies. Burns says, "the language is pretty vague" regarding the foundation's investments. But they know that some foundation money is invested there. Its 2010 endowment report (PDF) briefly mentions "oil and gas partnerships."
"It's frustrating because the foundation is completely separate from the university," Burns says. "They don't necessarily see accountability to students as a first priority."
The national 350.org has identified about 200 companies it is targeting in the campaign. McKibben hopes to inspire people to act locally in the fight. "If you're a student, you can put tremendous pressure on [your university's] board of regents to sell that stock. It's a good thing to change your light bulb, but a more important thing to change the structure and the system."
Those involved in the South African divestment campaign say that forcing social change takes a long time. Even forcing stocks down "a penny," Minter says, involves getting numerous universities to divest. But the divestment campaign was successful not just because of the economic pressure it eventually brought to bear on South Africa, but because it helped build awareness.
"When you confront a university or a church, you say, 'You're contributing to a situation that is really bad,'" Minter says. Connecting with those institutions educates people about the problem, he says.
"The idea in going after companies is they were a symbol, they were everywhere. It also gave people everywhere a way to do something."
Minter is pleased to see a new divestment campaign gearing up ??" and also happy to see it drawing inspiration from the anti-Apartheid movement.
Now living in Washington, D.C., Minter edits the online journal AfricaFocus, which examines issues facing the continent. One of the most pressing issues currently, of course, is global warming.
"The primary responsibility for global warming is that of the rich companies in the developed counties," he says. "The most vulnerable are those in the weakest economies. And Africa is the most vulnerable continent."
New study: Feed-in Tariffs can unlock Africa's untapped renewable energy potential
Press release - November 30, 2012
World Future Council, Heinrich Boell Foundation and Friends of the Earth UK launch comprehensive policy guide for African decision makers
Doha, Johannesburg, Hamburg, November 30 - A new report for policy makers launched today by the World Future Council and the Heinrich B??ll Foundation at the UN climate summit COP 18 in Doha, Qatar shows that Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff policies (REFiT) are a promising mechanism to unlock the renewable energy development in Africa. REFiTs encourage investment in renewable energy generation - from individual home owners and communities to big companies - by guaranteeing to buy and pay for all the electricity produced. When tailored to the local context, such a policy can successfully increase overall energy production in both on and off-grid areas.
Moreover, the decentralized nature of REFiTs allows for alternative ownership and governance models and provides the opportunity to empower communities as well as revitalising local democracy and self-governance.
The report, which is also supported by Friends of the Earth, provides an in-depth analysis of existing policies in 13 African countries: Algeria, Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. The case studies examine the socio economic effects of REFiTs and present and analyse both supportive and obstructive factors for successful policy implementation. In addition, the report identifies a variety of national and international measures to shift financial resources towards renewable energy uptake such as levies on fossil fuels or contributions from the United Nation's Green Climate Fund.
Africa is facing an energy crisis since the growing demand for electricity cannot be met by existing production capacity. The electricity needed to power and grow the economy, drive local development and tackle urban and rural poverty is simply not there. In addition, traditional sources have become unreliable, unaffordable or increasingly unacceptable. Energy has been described as the 'missing millennium development goal' that enables others to be achieved, yet according to the World Bank less than 25% of Sub-Saharan households have access to electricity, falling to 10% in rural areas.
Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariffs have been successful at increasing the use of renewable technologies worldwide. As of 2012, 65 countries have implemented some form of a REFiT, driving 64% of global wind installations and 87% of global photovoltaic installed capacity.
While the majority of these installations have occurred in industrialised countries, particularly Europe, the African continent has significant untapped renewable energy potential.
"In finding a sustainable, affordable and reliable energy solution to meet its needs, Africa has the opportunity to leapfrog the dirty development pathways of industrialised countries," says Ansgar Kiene, Director of the WFC Africa office. "This study is a perfect guide for policy makers on how to achieve this shift. Africa can power its economies and its societies through renewable energy and it does not necessarily have to wait for international agreements." "REFiTs are most successful as an integral part of a country's wider development strategy" adds Patrick Berg of the Heinrich B??ll Foundation. "Thus, high-level political support as well as buy-in from civil society and the private sector are crucial factors for the successful development and implementation of a REFiT."
Notes to Editors: A 16-page executive summary of the study can be downloaded here: http://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/refit_africa_study.html The full study is currently being finalized and will be available at the same link before Christmas. High-resolution images illustrating the topic of Renewable Energy in Africa can be downloaded at http://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/image_downloads.html
Media Contacts / Interviews (English / German): Ansgar Kiene, World Future Council, Director Africa Office, Johannesburg, South Africa Mobile : +49 1520 87 35 624, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Ansgar Kiene is available in Doha, Qatar, until 1 Dec and in Jo'burg from 3 Dec.
Patrick Berg, Heinrich Boell Foundation Director Ethiopia Office Email: email@example.com http://www.za.boell.org
"Scientists Forecast Dramatic Temperature Increase" Spiegel Online, Dec. 3, 2012 http://www.spiegel.de/ - direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/cv44axw
International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook, November 2012 http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/ "Despite the growth in low-carbon sources of energy, fossil fuels remain dominant in the global energy mix, supported by subsidies that amounted to $523 billion in 2011, up almost 30% on 2010 and six times more than subsidies to renewables."
"Carbon Pollution up to 2 million pounds a second," AP, Dec. 2, 2012 On report from Center for International Climate and Environmental Research http://tinyurl.com/at7a23x
Global Carbon Project - latest estimates (for 2011) of carbon emissions http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/
"Rich Countries Spend Five Times More on Fossil Fuel Subsidies than on Climate Aid," Climate Progress, Dec. 3, 2012 http://tinyurl.com/c2vgksg
Oil Change International Fossil Fuel Subsidies Fact Page http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/international/
New World Bank Report: Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 degree Warmer World Must be Avoided http://climatechange.worldbank.org/
"World Bank and Climate Change: Cloudy Forecast for Policy Reform" Bretton Woods Project, Dec. 6, 2012 http://www.brettonwoodsproject.org/art-571584
"A 'low ambition' outcome at Doha climate change conference SouthNews, Dec. 10, 2012 http://tinyurl.com/cvsvd28
"To Stop Climate Change, Students Aim at College Portfolios," New York Times, Dec. 5, 2012 http://tinyurl.com/cfvlta7