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A Model for Climate Change: Guatemala's Agro-Ecological Center

Guatemala, Climate Change, German Society for International Cooperation, Agriculture, Food Security

Plagued by rising temperatures, droughts, and elevated carbon dioxide levels, Central America's agricultural sector hangs in the balance. But the Guatemalan town of San Miguel Chicaj in Baja Verapaz may have the answer to this increasingly worrisome problem. With support from the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), San Miguel Chicaj will soon be home to an agro-ecological center designed to serve as a model of adaption to climate change.

For the past ten years, the state of Baja Verapaz has been part of the 'dry corridor', making it the perfect testing ground for the agro-ecological center's techniques. The center, located in a small forest surrounded by cornfields and nurseries, plans to teach people to adapt crop production to the changing environment.  

"It will strengthen our crops…serve as a space for youth to be trained in agricultural-related activities," the chief counselor of San Miguel Chicaj told El Periodico.

The project, which is in the second phase of the "Adapt" initiative of the GIZ, has been called "innovative" and "a new way to address climate change" by the organization's head of cooperation Thomas Cieslik.

Under construction on municipal land, it will cost around $100,000 USD to complete. GIZ, meanwhile, is providing €10.5 million over six years (2013-2018) to invest in consulting and training. Once open, the center will fund operations by charging schools, universities, and companies for training students and employees.

It won't be ready for about a year-and-a-half, but GIZ is already conducting workshops to teach residents of Baja Verapaz how to reduce their impact on the environment. 

Sustainable Agriculture: One Way to Promote Food Security in Fragile Countries

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rwanda_maize_lo_(4108178537).jpg

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pursue broad benchmarks in food security such as ensuring local food production systems, installing resilient agricultural practices, and maintaining ecosystems. By way of international donors, the UN advocates for these practices to be guaranteed in all countries.

Ideally, the involvement of the international community should expand the capacity of the developing country so that they can sustain themselves once the aid flow stops. Endorsing methods of local autonomy, such as sustainable agriculture, can decrease the likelihood of fragile states like Rwanda becoming dependent on food aid.

Rwanda, a small landlocked country within Sub-Saharan Africa, remains a fragile country since the end of the 1994 genocide. Last week, the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA) 2015 was released, stating that 80% of Rwandan households are now able to meet their essential food needs. The report highlights progress in the development policies implemented over the past several years. However, this means 20% of households are still food insecure, mostly in rural areas. Furthermore, 44% of children under the age of two are malnourished. CFSVA recommends “enhanced efforts and initiatives to reach the most vulnerable people living in rural areas.”

Zika? Or Should We Say "Eureka!"?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aedes_aegypti#/media/File:Aedes_aegypti_CDC-Gathany.jpg

What can we do to fight Zika?

Zika was first discovered in Uganda in 1947 and was seen as a mild illness. Current events, however, tell a different story. Zika is now one of the most feared diseases, potentially causing cases of microcephaly and Guillian-Barré syndrome. Microcephaly is a condition that causes a baby to be born with a small head and can lead to improper brain development, while Guillain-Barré syndrome can result in muscle weakness and breathing problems.

Zika started out in small areas, but now has spread to over 20 different countries. One of the reasons Zika has spread so much is climate change. Global temperatures have increased, and so has the amount of rain. This type of weather makes it easier for mosquito-borne illnesses to develop. Zika originates from a mosquito called the Aeded aegypti, which thrives in warm and wet climates. Further climate damage could play a future role in spreading the Zika virus.

Although there is no official cure for Zika, there are some ways you can protect yourself. 

It is highly suggested for pregnant woman to refrain from travel at all costs. If you are planning to travel soon, it is important to wear long-sleeved shorts and long pants. Use insect repellants that contain DEET or picaridin. Keep doors and windows closed and use air conditioning. Basically, avoid getting mosquito bites as much as you can.

Latin America Cleans Up as Renewable Energy Deals Surge

https://climate.america.gov/mexico-citys-air-quality-challenge/

The smog-laden skyline of Mexico City may not be a poster child for air pollution much longer. Demand for clean energy is on the rise in Latin America, particularly in Mexico, Brazil, and Chile.

Clean-energy acquisitions nearly tripled in the region last year--the highest growth rate in the world, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). An increasing demand for electricity coupled with stricter environmental policies has resulted in renewable energy deals valued at $7.6 billion, up from $2.7 billion in 2014, the consulting firm said in its annual Power & Renewables Deals report.

"There is increasing interest in the region," Arthur Ramos, a partner at PwC's strategic consulting unit Strategy& told BloombergBusiness. "Multinationals are taking stronger positions in Latin America where there is a perspective of lack of power supply in the long term. And many countries are offering low risk models of energy contracts for investors."

In total, mergers and acquisitions in Latin America shot up 56 percent to $12.4 billion last year. Only the Asia Pacific region brokered more deals.

China has already jumped on the investment bandwagon. The Chinese power company Three Gorges Corp. bought the Jupia and Ilha Solteria hydropower plants in Brazil for $3.7 billion, the largest acquisition in the region. Sempra Energy, the San Diego-based natural gas company, came in second with its acquisition of the remaining stake in its Mexican joint venture Gasoductos de Chihuahua for $1.5 billion.

Big Changes Coming In Electricity Supply: Citizen Input Needed Now

http://www.stlouiscountymn.gov/GOVERNMENT/DepartmentsAgencies/PropertyManagement/GreenInitiatives/ElectricityConservation.aspx?folderId=3163&view=gridview&pageSize=10

The declining costs of renewable energy, emerging information technology-related capacities for better management of electricity supply and use, and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are combining to drive major changes in electricity supply in the United States and worldwide. But the existing industry structure and government regulatory practices are impeding progress. Citizen action is needed.

A study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and researchers from the University of Colorado recently demonstrated that a national direct current high-energy transmission web drawing primarily on solar and wind energy productioncould cut greenhouse gas emissions from electric power production by up to 78 percent from 1990 levels while meeting increasing electricity demand at costs similar to--if not lower than--current costs. This change could be started using existing technologies.

Congress has therefore been considering bipartisan energy legislation (S. 2012) that would include provisions to take the first steps of establishing of such a grid, as well as a considerable body of other initiatives to foster “smart grid” development.

Another major development is the rapid rise of rooftop and community solar electricity generation. This has resulted in a backlash from the power industry, which feels that its monopoly status is threatened.

UN Environment Programme Post-Paris Update

A Broken World. Photo Credit: Rennett Stowe http://bit.ly/1PAm1jC

 

“Later that night, I held an atlas in my lap,

Ran my fingers across the whole world,

And whispered… where does it hurt?

It answered

Everywhere

Everywhere

Everywhere.”

--Warsan Shire 

Last week I attended a United Nations Environment Programme event held in collaboration with George Washington University that invited speakers and organizations to discuss their plans to incorporate the goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement. There were two keynote speakers from the White House and three panels consisting of 10 high-ranking members of various organizations known for their efforts to curb climate change.

Dear Obama, Thank You for Banning Coal Leasing on Public Lands

Beulah Mine in North Dakota https://cramer.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/cramer-statement-on-obamas-plan-to-review-federal-coal-program

It was a Thursday night. I was overwhelmed by midterm papers and exhausted from the afternoon's track workout. But rather than spending my evening studying, I was waiting in line in the bitter cold, filing slowly into a packed auditorium in downtown Spokane. Why? Because my environmental studies professor had "strongly encouraged" me and my classmates to attend that night's NEPA hearing.

A NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) hearing is an event where each citizen gets a small window of time to voice their support or opposition to a government project. The government is required to consider what every person says... but they don't necessarily have to act according to majority opinion. This particular hearing concerned plans to build a railway to transport cheap coal (deemed to be of too low quality to burn in the US) from the Powder River Basin to Vancouver, WA, where it would then be exported to China.

Once we settled into our seats, the novelty of the event disappeared. My brain became so inundated with numbers that citizens were rattling off--statistics about noise pollution and air pollution, rates of asthma, claims about the number of jobs that would be lost or created, etc—that it began to switch off....

Then, thankfully, it was jolted awake by an impassioned voice. A Cheyenne elder from the Powder River Basin was speaking about how tearing up the land for coal mining was not only contaminating the Tribe's air and water, but was literally tearing up their culture—a culture engrained in the land. Ten other Cheyenne tribe members followed the woman's speech, echoing her sentiments. [Click here to read more on the Northern Cheyenne Tribe's relationship with coal]. 

From Paris to Present: Addressing Climate Change in the New Year

Secretary-General Interviewed Ahead of COP21 in Paris https://www.flickr.com/photos/un_photo/23202633483/in/album-72157661836684949/

Last month, 196 countries reached a historic agreement to address climate change. While the agreement does not address everything—such as the affect of climate change on migrants/refugees—it does seek to set strict limits on emissions and to help developing countries create the infrastructure to meet these limits as well.

While there is much to celebrate, there is also room for skepticism. Given the history of UN multilateral agreements, won’t countries just find another way to dodge their commitments? Will the terms of the agreement be enough to curb the effects of climate change? Will rich countries follow through on their promises to poor countries, and how this will affect aid that is typically used for other forms of development?

Though the United States cannot act for everyone, its individual actions can have a big influence on whether these concerns become true in the future. What can we do as citizens to ensure our government supports and builds on the work done in Paris? We must urge our representatives to enact national measures such as providing funds to states to convert dirty industries to renewables; mobilizing American businesses to open new markets for renewable industries and tools around the world; and supporting the development of local, sustainable food markets in poor countries by changing the way we regulate aid.

The Drowning and the Displaced

Delegates, including President Obama, at COP21 in Paris (Photo: Presidencia de la República Mexicana, http://bit.ly/wikicommons-COP21)

Record flooding in Chennai this month combined with the UN COP21 Conference has brought climate change once again to the forefront of international discussions. While scientists concede that we cannot link individual events directly to climate change, it is reasonable to infer that the record rainfall and flooding in Chennai is due in part to our deteriorating environment.

However, despite claiming nearly 300 lives, there are signs of hope in Chennai. As schools begin to reopen, we can assume that most citizens will eventually return to their homes. This has not always been the case with weather disasters, and it will likely become even rarer in the future if climate change worsens.

“Environmental refugees” is still a relatively new concept, and the issue was ignored at COP21. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has compiled materials to prepare for large-scale displacement, but there are pressing legal issues in the way of coping with environmental refugees. The Climate Institute points out:

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) defines refugees as victims of persecution, war, or civil conflict who have fled their home countries. Refugee status entitles a person to a safe asylum in another country-or in the absence of this possibility, the provision of assistance and aid 'such as financial grants, food, tools and shelter, schools and clinics.'

Climate Security: Building on the Momentum of the Paris Agreement

https://www.flickr.com/photos/un_photo/23722490442/in/album-72157661836684949/

The Paris climate summit known as COP21 came to an end on Saturday afternoon, December 12, 2015. This was a day later than originally planned to allow for last-minute compromises and an agreement with a few States, mainly Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, so that they would not block a consensus agreement.

All 195 States plus the European Union had to agree. A treaty is not something that can be created by a majority vote as can be done in a UN General Assembly resolution. On April 22, 2016, there will be a high-level signature ceremony. The Treaty must be ratified by 55 States and will come into force in 2020.

The treaty arising from COP21 will replace the Kyoto Protocol. The new treaty is relatively short and clear. However, it is the “Preamble” of 140 paragraphs--not legally binding but where all the analysis and aims are set out--that caused difficulties to reach consensus among States with diverse interpretations of “national interest,” of short- and longer-term perspectives, and of differing access to national expertise.

The preamble has been under negotiations for the past two years. Although most points had been agreed upon well before the Paris conference, some crucial aspects had to be negotiated during the two-week session among heads of government and teams of negotiators, often with a Foreign Minister present.