COP 18: Climate change in focus

DEC 14 – It was in Doha that the 18th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 18)—the United Nations Framework Convention on climate change—took place this year. Walking into the Qatar National Conference Centre as part of the youth delegates on that very first day, we had felt buoyed by the kind of diversity we saw there—participants from all around the world, eager to get on with the matter at hand, eager to play a part in what was an event of farreaching magnitude.
As the days wore on, however, frustration was rife, particularly among the youth. We felt like we were being subtly dismissed in the discussions by the older delegates, perhaps deemed too hasty and emotional in our judgements—there was a definite sense of being overlooked. In our defense, as ill-equipped as we might have seemed, our ‘haste’ is ultimately a reflection of the kind of exasperation we’ve begun to experience when it comes to the bureaucratic nonsense that holds up progress every time we feel like we’ve made a breakthrough. All we could wish for, at that point in time, was for the parties to come to an agreement, however flimsy.
As the host country, Qatar’s ecological concerns naturally figured prominently at the conference, particularly to do with its water supply; Qatar’s water usage per capita is among the highest in the world. The country is planning to build five ‘mega’ reservoirs—some of the world’s largest water tanks—on the outskirts of Doha by 2016, according to reports, and the project will cost up to US $2 billion.
Nepal, in the mean time, was trying to push the mountain agenda at the conference, something the government has been striving to do since
COP 15 in Copenhagen. How effective it has been in this regard is a matter of interpretation; we’ve been able to organise side events around the COP, but do not have any real technical influence in the UNFCCC negotiation process. Young climate activist Avishek Shrestha stressed on the need to incorporate the mountain agenda into a more prominent position at COP lest it be sidelined forever.
It was, however, encouraging to see the Nepali government working so earnestly with mountain countries for the mountain initiative, and proposing an action plan encompassing the same. There was hope among delegates that this raising of voice could translate into funding for the initiative. Nepal also took over from Gambia as the chair of the UNFCC Least Developed Countries (LDC) group—comprising 48 nations—for the year 2013-14. Prakash Mathema, joint secretary at the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, will be heading the group; his chairmanship will be effective from January 2013.
We learned over the time we spent at the conference that Doha’s youth is extremely aware in terms of climate change issues, but like in the case of many other countries, still has a long way to go when it comes to actual, practical understanding and application of knowledge. And although stakeholders here seem keen to cut down on their carbon footprint, debates become heated every time the subject of the oil and gas industry comes up. Qatari industrialists are generally firm on the fact that their entire economy relies on oil—cheaper there than water, by the way—and pulling back the sector would mean certain financial suicide.
On the personal front, I was also able, on the occasion, to share my own experience of walking the Great Himalaya Trail—1,555 kilometres in 99 days—during which I had assessed the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation on communities in high-altitude regions. My story appeared to inspire quite a few Qatari youth, who told me that they wanted to visit Nepal and walk the trail themselves.
Nepal’s participation in the COPs has definitely been significant in putting our environmental agendas on an international platform, and deriving important qualitative perspective. But we are still far from being influential in negotiations, something that will hopefully change in the coming years.

Published in The Kathmandu Post 

All Fogged In…

The recent cold wave across the country not only made temperatures plunge, but also blanketed most of the Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pukthunkhwa provinces in thick fog. While the residents of Lahore are used to the annual winter fog that starts in December, this year it spread all the way up to Islamabad and Peshawar and down to Sukkur and Larkana divisions. This is certainly unusual, but in keeping with what climate change scientists have warned us about “extreme weather conditions” in the years to come. According to Dr Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry, local climate change expert and Vice-President of the World Meteorological Organisation from Asia, “Normally, January is the winter rain season but this year the dry period was extended which might mean a change in climate patterns…

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LED there be light

Although their low energy consumption made LEDs ideal for diesel and solar-powered lighting in Nepal, they were just too expensive.

Not any more. Prices of LEDs (light emitting diodes) have come down dramatically, and with Nepal’s energy crisis here to stay, these high-tech fixtures have become affordable for home, office, and factory lighting.

Nepal made the switch from incandescent and fluorescent tubes to CFLs some five years ago, but LEDs save even more energy and money. In an LED bulb, electrons hit holes within the device to create electroluminescence, and depending on the quality of LED lights they last up to 40,000 hours – four times more than fluorescent tubes and 10 times longer than incandescent lights.LED bulbs were initially used in rural electrification but are now becoming popular in cities as well.

Illuminium in Kupondole which introduced customised LED lighting three years ago has seen a steady rise in customers with large corporate houses to restaurants and hotels (see box) eager to make the switch from CFL to LED.

“The leap from CFL to LED hasn’t been as swift and massive as the switch from incandescent bulbs to CFL, but the demand for LED lights has definitely increased,” says Anil Karki of Illuminium, who urges that LEDs be arranged sensibly around the home or office to take maximum advantage of the interior.

What has deterred many Nepalis to adopt LEDs so soon after switching to CFL, however, is the cost of the bulbs. Lighting companies believe it will still take some more years for individual households to join the LED revolution.
Many businesses now conduct energy audits to help them make the switch to more energy efficient products. And they have been replacing CFLs with LEDs, covering the initial installation cost through reduced electricity bills.
Raj Kumar Thapa of Solar Solutions says it is best for households with low electricity consumption to wait for a few years before making the jump to expensive LEDs.

“We have installed LED lights mostly for large organisations as it is easier for them to cover the initial cost than for smaller households,” Thapa explains.

Given how the Nepali market is inundated with costly but low-grade LEDs, new companies are stepping in to make sure customers are provided with lights that are worth their price tag.

“People pay almost 10 times more for LEDs than CFLs so they need to get value for their money,” says Shashank Thapa of Tuff Lite which imports LEDs from Malaysia.

Companies in Nepal are hopeful that the gradual phase-out of CFLs across the globe due the health risks will eventually lead to competitive pricing of LEDs.

Says Raj Kumar Thapa: “Once the lights become more affordable I am sure Nepalis here will come flocking for LEDs.”


Taking the lead
As more and more concrete high-rises dominate Kathmandu’s skyline, undermining the Valley’s historic heart, one new tall hotel in Pulchok is trying to be different. The 11-storey Meconopsis Hotel is aiming to be the most energy-efficient high rise in the capital by being powered completely by LED lights: all 2,000 watts of it.

“LEDs are expensive, but they consume less power and are ideal during long hours of load shedding when we have to use diesel generators, they help keep our electricity and diesel bills down,” explains says Bishan Shah (pictured) of Meconopsis. LED lights with their longer lifespans and low energy consumption pay for themselves within a year, making them ideal for an energy-starved country like Nepal.

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Climate change to hit Pakistan – LEAD and WWF study

Karachi; Jamshed Bukhari (staff reporter)

Due to Environmental and climate change Pakistan would be facing Natural disaster ,food and drinking water shortage. this was reported in the topic of nature pakistan project ,study of LEAD Pakistan and WWF uk .
According to the report, Pakistan see level rising 6mm per year, in that manner the agriculture land is swallowed by sea.
According to the report

As the Bay of Bengal is cooling down and the North Arabian Sea is warming up, the number of tropical cyclones has increased owing to the temperature shifting trend.
Data collected from 56 meteorological stations in Pakistan shows a sharp rise in temperature during the first decade of the 21st century, except the year 2005, while a rise of four degrees centigrade is expected to occur within the century in the Indus delta region. Impacts included loss of vegetation, deforestation and irregular precipitation, says a study, part of the Synthesis Report 2012, which was released on Saturday.
The report provides a summary of results of 11 studies carried out over the past two years (2011, 2012) under the Building Capacity on Climate Change Adaptation in the Coastal Areas of Pakistan, a Worldwide Fund for Nature-Pakistan project jointly administered with partners LEAD-Pakistan and WWF-UK with the financial support of European Union.
Conducted by Pakistan’s chief meteorologist Dr Ghulam Rasul, the study titled Climate Data Modeling Analysis presents eye-opening climatic trends that have been observed in the country in a decade.
Referring to the study’s findings, the report states that Pakistan lies in a geographical region where temperature increase is expected to be higher than the global average,
making it an extremely climate sensitive country.
“The impacts of climate change felt in Pakistan range from tropical cyclones in the south to glacier retreat in the north.
All the impacts of climate change and their manifestations have been looked into in detail in the study which also ident-ifies high-risk areas and make recommendations.
“Warmer nights threaten crop production (due to heat stress) by increasing overall water requirements and higher rates of respiration.

Painting scenarios in a warming South Asia

The Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) research programme of the CGIAR Consortium recently started the process of developing socio-economic scenarios for climate change in South Asia. These would be blended with climate change scenarios to develop strategies for climate resilient agriculture. Read the story on Climatalk blog.

Helping vulnerable communities to live a safe life

This story is based on Community Vulnerability Assessment made by WWF Pakistan. This report attempts to highlight the risks facing coastal communities that inhabit Jiwani (Gwader District of Balochistan), and Kharo Chan and Keti Bunder (Thatta District of Sindh).

This study presents a brief overview of how climate change, even within a short span of 10-20 years, is causing irreversible harm to the Indus Delta Eco-region and its inhabitants. The voices of the Indus Delta’s inhabitants will lead the way to a greater understanding of how this landscape is changing. It intends to serve as a clarion call to government officials, policy-makers, civil society organisations, donors, and concerned bystanders that the survival of the Indus Delta and its inhabitants, humans and animals, is at stake.

Subsistence agriculture, in the areas where CCAP works, is an important source of food and income for poor and vulnerable communities. Since agriculture is highly sensitive to climate variability and change, it is a key area of adaptation. These key points should stimulate greater urgency in addressing vulnerability among poor communities in coastal Sindh and Balochistan.

As communities living in coastal areas, and elsewhere, face changes in temperature, rainfall patterns, and depletion of freshwater supplies, improving water storage and making irrigation water supply and use efficient becomes paramount. While these changes will threaten productivity in irrigated areas, areas such as Jiwani will become even more vulnerable to drought and changing precipitation patterns.

It is considered that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and media have a great potential for communicating climate change information, and encouraging adaptive behaviour among audiences i.e. vulnerable communities and people.  ICT can be used to record data and information, transform data and information into shareable knowledge, and communicate this knowledge in easily comprehensible and appealing ways. Effective use of ICT does not rely on vast capital or investment outlays. In fact, the main part of adaptation activities can be realised at a small scale, with little investment, and can be built on existing communication systems.

In addition to providing vital weather and early warning information to farmers, fishers and local communities, ICTs can also be used for other resilience building measures. For instance, farmers can be provided with phone contacts of agricultural extension workers and livestock health workers to access advice and support on treating crops and livestock, seed varieties, planting times and methods. Market access for fishers and farmers can be improved by providing them with phone contact lists of traders from nearby markets so that they can inform themselves on market rates for their products, and can negotiate better prices.

Peoples experience learning also contributed to design strategies, provide alternative source of earnings.

Read the story here.

Pakistan pushes ahead on climate policy but action still lags

Pakistan faces a range of threatening climate change impacts: changing monsoon patterns, melting glaciers, seasonal flooding, rising sea levels, desertification and increasing water scarcity.

But concrete action to address climate threats has been relatively slow, critics say, and a convoluted process of devolution of power to Pakistan’s provinces and then the reorganisation of federal ministries hasn’t helped speed up the process – though a new federal Ministry of Climate Change may help change that.

“The time for talking is long past,” said Shafqat Kakakhel, a former U.N. Environment Programme official and a member of Pakistan’s original task force on climate change set up by the government in 2008. “What we need to see are projects on the ground. Pakistan is lagging far behind other countries in the South Asian region that are already addressing climate change through concrete actions.”

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Goa subsidizes solar-powered mobile ‘cool cart’

This is a story in Konkani telecast on DD News, DDK, Panaji on 20/10/2012

Here is the synopsis

In a bold bid to give impetus to development & popularisation of solar energy as well as to provide employment to youth, the Goa State Horticulture Development Corporation in co-operation with Indian Council of Agricultural Research is providing solar-powered mobile carts with refrigeration facilities to unemployed youth and women at subsidized prices.  Equipped with three solar-powered chilled chambers, these carts maintain the quality of perishable food products like vegetables, fruits, dairy, fish, etc, while providing hygienic refrigerated storage without a grid connection.  The vendor can move about specially in rural areas where power supply is erratic.

The ‘cool cart’ as it is called has been developed by an innovative entrepreneur, Deepak Solanki, from Sancoale, Goa whose aim is to provide economic eco-alternatives for power requirements and to make Goa a solar energy hub.  The cart costs Rs. 82,000, but the Managing Director of GSHDC, Pai Kakode says that a subsidy of Rs. 62,000 funded through  Central Government Krishi Vikas Yojana and State Agriculture Department is given to popularize the use of the solar-powered cart.  It means those availing the facility have to pay only Rs. 20,000/- and an annual maintenance fee of Rs. 1000/- for a period of 5 years  for maintaining the battery and the cooling system.   With a storage capacity of 180 kg, it can be used even during the monsoon as it is fitted with a ‘hybrid’ battery which can also be charged electrically.  Easy to maintain  with just a switch button, the ‘cool cart’ is fitted with a technology similar to a refrigerator with a panel life of around 15-20 years.  It can be fitted on a tricycle or motorized tricycle which again are solar-powered.

India logs more than 300 sunny days in a year but the potential for solar energy has remained  largely untapped mainly due to high costs of photovoltaic panels.  However with falling prices of PV panels, increasing incentives by the government, as well as high fuel prices, use of solar energy is increasingly becoming a viable option.  Several states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, UP, etc.  have put in place their own solar energy policies to tide over power shortages. Under the National Action Plan for Climate Change, a National Solar Mission is already working towards achieving the target to generate 1000 MW by the end of 2013.