BANGKOK, Thailand, May 23 2022 (IPS) – The Asia-Pacific region is at a crossroads today – to further breakdown or breakthrough to a greener, better, safer future.
Since the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) was established in 1947, the region has made extraordinary progress, emerging as a pacesetter of global economic growth that has lifted millions out of poverty.
Yet, as ESCAP celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, we find ourselves facing our biggest shared test on the back of cascading and overlapping impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, raging conflicts and the climate crisis.
Few have escaped the effects of the pandemic, with 85 million people pushed back into extreme poverty, millions more losing their jobs or livelihoods, and a generation of children and young people missing precious time for education and training.
As the pandemic surges and ebbs across countries, the world continues to face the grim implications of failing to keep the temperature increase below 1.5°C – and of continuing to degrade the natural environment. Throughout 2021 and 2022, countries across Asia and the Pacific were again battered by a relentless sequence of natural disasters, with climate change increasing their frequency and intensity.
More recently, the rapidly evolving crisis in Ukraine will have wide-ranging socioeconomic impacts, with higher prices for fuel and food increasing food insecurity and hunger across the region.
Rapid economic growth in Asia and the Pacific has come at a heavy price, and the convergence of these three crises have exposed the fault lines in a very short time. Unfortunately, those hardest hit are those with the fewest resources to endure the hardship. This disproportionate pressure on the poor and most vulnerable is deepening and widening inequalities in both income and opportunities.
The situation is critical. Many communities are close to tipping points beyond which it will be impossible to recover. But it is not too late.
The region is dynamic and adaptable.
In this richer yet riskier world, we need more crisis-prepared policies to protect our most vulnerable populations and shift the Asia-Pacific region back on course to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as the target year of 2030 comes closer — our analysis shows that we are already 35 years behind and will only attain the Goals in 2065.
To do so, we must protect people and the planet, exploit digital opportunities, trade and invest together, raise financial resources and manage our debt.
The first task for governments must be to defend the most vulnerable groups – by strengthening health and universal social protection systems. At the same time, governments, civil society and the private sector should be acting to conserve our precious planet and mitigate and adapt to climate change while defending people from the devastation of natural disasters.
For many measures, governments can exploit technological innovations. Human activities are steadily becoming “digital by default.” To turn the digital divide into a digital dividend, governments should encourage more robust and extensive digital infrastructure and improve access along with the necessary education and training to enhance knowledge-intensive internet use.
Much of the investment for services will rely on sustainable economic growth, fueled by equitable international trade and foreign direct investment (FDI). The region is now the largest source and recipient of global FDI flows, which is especially important in a pandemic recovery environment of fiscal tightness.
While trade links have evolved into a complex noodle bowl of bilateral and regional agreements, there is ample scope to further lower trade and investment transaction costs through simplified procedures, digitalization and climate-smart strategies. Such changes are proving to be profitable business strategies. For example, full digital facilitation could cut average trade costs by more than 13 per cent.
Governments can create sufficient fiscal space to allow for greater investment in sustainable development. Additional financial resources can be raised through progressive tax reforms, innovative financing instruments and more effective debt management. Instruments such as green bonds or sustainability bonds, and arranging debt swaps for development, could have the highest impacts on inclusivity and sustainability.
Significant efforts need to be made to anticipate what lies ahead. In everything we do, we must listen to and work with both young and old, fostering intergenerational solidarity. And women must be at the centre of crisis-prepared policy action.
This week the Commission is expected to agree on a common agenda for sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific, pinning the aspirations of the region on moving forward together by learning from and working with each other.
In the past seven-and-a-half decades, ESCAP has been a vital source of know-how and support for the governments and peoples of Asia and the Pacific. We remain ready to serve in the implementation of this common agenda.
To quote United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, “the choices we make, or fail to make today, will shape our future. We will not have this chance again.”
Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana is the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Apr 4 2022 (IPS) – India began its journey as an independent nation in 1947 with fresh memory of the Bengal Famine of 1943 which claimed 1.5 to 3 million lives. Against this backdrop, the First Five Year Plan (1951-56) prioritized agriculture which, however, shifted to heavily industrialization in the second Plan.
The mid-1960s was a difficult time when consecutive droughts hit food production and India had to import about 11 million metric ton (MMT) of wheat per year – about 15% of its domestic food grain production – under US Public Law 480. With the availability of high yielding miracle seeds of wheat and rice accompanied by increasing use of chemical fertilisers, provision of minimum support price (MSP) for rice and wheat, expansion in irrigated area, and gradual mechanization of farms, Indian agri-food system fortunately took a definitive positive turn beginning late 1960s. As a result, India has become the largest producer of milk (187.7 MMT in 2019-20) and cotton (37.5 million bales in 2019-20) and the second largest producer of rice (117.5 MMT in 2019-20) and wheat (106.2 MMT in 2019-20), fruits (97.97 MMT in 2018-19) and vegetables (183.17 MMT in 2018-19). India today is not only food self-sufficient but also a net exporter of agricultural produce. In short, the success of Indian agriculture in last six decades has been nothing less than spectacular.
The success, however, has come with significant costs. The resource intensification that the Green Revolution requires has adversely affected natural resources and environment. India pumped 245 million cubic meters – about 25 percent of total groundwater withdrawn globally – for irrigation in 2011. As a result, ground water in 1,034 blocks (16% of total blocks) are over-exploited. Worse, ground water table has become critical in 4% and semi-critical in 10% of the blocks. Similarly, some 37% of land area in the country (120.4 mn ha) is affected by various types of land degradation. Subsidy policy-induced non-judicious use of fertilizers has led to the chemicalization of soil and pollution of water through leaching and run-off. Despite abundant supply of food grains, in 2020 41.7% of under-5 children suffered from stunting. India is home to 208.6 million – or over a quarter – of world’s undernourished people. Other challenges that Indian agriculture faces today include uneven regional growth, rising fiscal constraints, mounting and unsustainable level of subsidies, small holding size and further fragmentation of holdings and accompanying land tenurial issues, and low resource use efficiency, particularly of water. These factors act as serious impediments for sustained agricultural growth and farmers’ livelihoods.
Amidst the success and emerging challenges NITI Aayog, the apex public policy think tank of the Government of India and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) decided to facilitate a national dialogue among key stakeholders including government agencies, academia, civil society organisations, farmers, private sector, international organizations, media and others to articulate a vision for 2030 and pathways for the remandating of agriculture in India. To this end, 10 thematic papers were commissioned from distinguished professionals. A 3-day national dialogue entitled, ‘Indian Agriculture Towards 2030: Pathways for enhancing Farmers’ Income, Nutritional Security and Sustainable Food and Farm Systems” was held in January 2021. NITI Aayog and FAO have now come up with a publication with the same title (Chand, R., Joshi, P, and Khadka, S., Editors (2022), Springer).
In addition to the challenges enumerated above the books also deals with issues of climate change and its impact on agricultural production and farmers’ incomes and the strategies to mitigate such change; growing incidence of pests, pandemics, and transboundary diseases and threat to biosecurity affecting agricultural production; and alternative farming systems for transformative and sustainable agroecology and biodiverse future. The role of science, technology and innovation is identified as key to sustainable and resilient agriculture. Similarly, role of structural reforms and governance are discussed in detail and the role of price policies, market reforms and institutions are being highlighted for an efficient, inclusive and sustainable agriculture.
The National Dialogue identified pathways for transformation with emphasis on remandating Indian agriculture in a way that makes it more productive, efficient, resilient, resource conserving, nutrition centered and globally focused. These transformational outcomes are to be achieved by focusing on following pathways:
• Increasing investment in agriculture, first to reverse the declining trend and then achieving ‘efficient’ growth rather than growth alone, increased adoption of improved technology, reorienting agricultural science, technology and innovations, applying digital solutions and artificial intelligence, better use of information and communication technology, application of One Health concept; • Making Indian agriculture globally-focused, shifting attention from self-sufficiency to adding value through increased processing and achieving a high rate of export growth • Enhancing the efficiency of the water and other resources, mainly by correcting distorted water pricing, adopting water conserving technologies and agro-ecological approach, changes in the cropping pattern, and reversing neglect of rainfed areas; • Making agriculture climate resilient, by adopting several no-regret technological and institutional options as well as by undertaking more targeted research, use of big data analytics, and adoption of a science-based and green growth approach; • Tackling nutrition and food safety, by diversifying diet, reducing post-harvest losses, encouraging bio-fortifications, empowering women, enforcing food safety standards, improving water sanitation and hygiene, and promoting food safety awareness and nutrition education; • Focusing sharply on innovations, incentives and institutions that contribute to enhance productivity, enhance resilience to climate change, incentivize water and energy conservation, and by adopting more conducive regulatory environment such as for exploiting ground water; and • Adopting appropriate policies and improving governance such as by reducing distortion caused by the MSP, accelerating rural infrastructure creation, ensuring greater engagement of the state governments, enhancing access to credit and extension services, and expansion of contract farming.
As emphasised by Honourable M. Venkaiah Naidu, Vice-President of India in his foreword, the book ‘provides a sound basis for reflection because they distil important lessons and present an array of policy options for the government to choose from’.
Shyam Khadka is a former senior official of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations who served as representative in India (2015-18) and was Senior Portfolio Manager in United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (1997-2014). An international development professional, Khadka works on policies, programs and projects that aim at developing agriculture, ensuring food security, and reducing poverty globally.
Peruvian farmer Hilda Roca, 37, stands in her agro-ecological garden in Cusipata, a town located at more than 3,300 meters above sea level in the highlands of Cuzco, where she grows vegetables for her family and sells the surplus with the support of her adolescent daughter and son. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS
LIMA, Mar 7 2022 (IPS) – “Pachamama (Mother Earth) is upset with all the damage we are doing to her,” says Hilda Roca, an indigenous Peruvian farmer from Cusipata, in the Andes highlands of the department of Cuzco, referring to climate change and the havoc it is wreaking on her life and her environment.
From her town, more than 3,300 meters above sea level, she told IPS that if women were in power equally with men, measures in favor of nature that would alleviate the climate chaos would have been approved long ago. “But we need to fight sexism so that we are not discriminated against and so our rights are respected,” said the Quechua-speaking farmer.
The aim is to “make visible how the climate crisis is a problem that is closely related to inequality, and in particular to gender inequality, which is expressed in an unequal distribution of power, resources, wealth, work and time between women and men,” Ana Güezmes, director of the Gender Affairs Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), told IPS.
Latin America is highly vulnerable to the climate crisis despite the fact that it emits less than 10 percent of the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet.
In addition, climate injustice has a female face in the region: lower-income population groups, where the proportion of women is higher, are more exposed to climate effects due to their limited access to opportunities, despite the fact that they are less responsible for emissions.
The extreme poverty rate in the region increased from 13.1 percent to 13.8 percent of the population – from 81 to 86 million people – between 2020 and 2021, according to data released by ECLAC in January. Women between 25 and 59 years of age are the most affected compared to their male counterparts. This situation is worse among indigenous and rural populations, who depend on nature for their livelihoods.
And it is women who are mainly responsible for feeding their families, fetching water and firewood, and taking care of the vegetable garden and animals.
“That is why we maintain that the post-pandemic recovery must be transformative in terms of sustainability and equality,” Güezmes emphasized from ECLAC headquarters in Santiago, Chile.
To this end, she said, this recovery “must untie the four structural knots of gender inequality that affect the region so much: socioeconomic inequality and poverty; the sexual division of labor and the unjust organization of caregiving; the concentration of power and patriarchal, discriminatory and violent cultural patterns; and the predominance of the culture of privilege.”
Luz Mery Panche, an indigenous leader of the Nasa people of Colombia. : Courtesy of Luz Mery Panche
Reconciling with Mother Earth
Luz Mery Panche, an indigenous leader of the Nasa people, discussed the need to incorporate a gender perspective into the climate crisis. She talked to IPS from San Vicente del Caguán, in the department of Caquetá, in the Amazon region of Colombia, a country facing violent attacks on defenders of land and the environment.
For her, more than sustainable, “it is about moving towards a sustainable future.”
“We need to change the conditions that have generated war and chaos in the country, which is due to the hijacking of political and economic power by an elite that has been in the decision-making spaces since the country emerged 200 years ago,” she said.
Panche is a member of the National Ethnic Peace Coordination committee (Cenpaz) and in that capacity is part of the special high-level body with ethnic peoples for the implementation of the peace agreement in her country. She is a human rights activist and a defender of the Amazon rainforest.
She argued that to achieve a sustainable future “we must reconcile with Mother Earth and move towards the happy, joyful way of life that we deserve as human beings.”
This, she said, starts by changing the economic model violently imposed on many areas without taking into account the use of the soil, its capacities and benefits; by changing concepts of economy and the educational model; and by organizing local economies and focusing on a future of respect, solidarity and fraternity.
Panche said that in order to move towards this model, women “must have informed participation regarding the effects of climate change.
“Although we prefer to call Mother Earth’s fever ‘global warming’. And it is up to us to remember to make decisions that put us back on the ancestral path of harmony and balance, what we call returning to the origin, to the womb, to improve coexistence and the sense of humanity,” she said.
Uruguayan ecofeminist Lilian Celiberti carries a banner reading “Our body, our territory” in the streets of Tarapoto, a city in the central Peruvian jungle, during an edition of the Pan-Amazon Social Forum. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS
Changing times: another kind of coexistence with nature and equality
Lilian Celiberti, Uruguayan ecofeminist and founder of the non-governmental Cotidiano Mujer and Colectivo Dafnias, told IPS from Montevideo that governments have the tools to work on gender equality today in order to have a sustainable future tomorrow, as this year’s Mar. 8 slogan states.
But against this, she said, there are economic interests at play that maintain a development proposal based on growth and extreme exploitation of nature.
She called for boosting local economies and agroecology among other community alternatives in the Latin American region that run counter to the dominant government approach.
“But I believe that we are at a very complex crossroads and that only social participation will be able to find paths of multiple, diverse participation and collective sustainability that incorporate care policies and awareness of the eco-dependence of human society,” she said.
Celiberti said “we are on a planet of finite resources and we have to generate a new relationship with nature, but I see that governments are far from this kind of thinking.”
ECLAC’s Güezmes emphasized that social movements, especially those led by young indigenous and non-indigenous women in the region, have exposed the multiple asymmetries and inequalities that exist.
Ana Güezmes is director of the Gender Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. CREDIT: ECLAC
“We have an intergenerational debt, where young women have put at the center of the debate the unsustainability of the current development style that has direct impacts on our future at a global level and direct impacts on their livelihoods, territories and communities,” said Güezmes, who is from Spain and has worked for years within the United Nations in several Latin American countries.
She recognized the contribution of feminist movements that focus on a redistribution of power, resources and time to move towards an egalitarian model that includes the reduction of violence.
And she warned that from a climate perspective, the window of opportunity for action is closing, so we must act quickly, creating synergies between gender equality and climate change responses.
Güezmes said that “we are looking at a change of era” with global challenges that require a profound transformation that recognizes how the economy, society and the environment are interrelated. “To leave no one behind and no woman out, we must advance synergistically among these three dimensions of development: economic, social and environmental,” she remarked.
The expert cited gender equality as a central element of sustainable development because women need to be at the center of the responses. To this end, ECLAC plans to promote affirmative actions that bolster comprehensive care systems, decent work and the full and effective participation of women in strategic sectors of the economy.
She also raised the need to build “a renewed global pact” to strengthen multilateralism and achieve greater solidarity with middle-income countries on issues central to inclusive growth, sustainable development and gender equality.
“We have reiterated the urgent need to advance new political, social and fiscal pacts focused on structural change for equality,” Güezmes stressed.
She stated that in this perspective, the participation of women in all their diversity in decision-making processes is very important, particularly with regard to climate change.
To this end, she remarked, it is necessary to monitor their degree of intervention at the local, national and international levels – where asymmetry persists – and to provide women’s organizations, especially grassroots ones, with the necessary resources to become involved in such spaces.
“It involves strengthening financial flows so that they reach women who are at the forefront of responses to climate change and who are familiar with the situation in their communities, and boosting their capacities so that women from indigenous, native and Afro-descendant peoples participate in decision-making spaces related to the environment to promote the exchange of their ancestral knowledge on adaptation and mitigation measures,” she said.
Güezmes highlighted the contribution of women environmental activists and defenders to democracy, peace and sustainable development. It is necessary to “recognize their contribution to the protection of biodiversity and to development, despite doing so in conditions of fragility and exploitation and having less access to land, productive resources and their control,” she said.
For her part, Roca, who like other local women in the Peruvian Andes highlands practices agroecology to adapt to climate change and reconcile with Pachamama, calls for their voices to be heard.
“We have ideas and proposals and they need to be taken into account to improve the climate and our lives,” the indigenous farmer said.
Women and men from the rural community of Sachac, at more than 3500 meters above sea level, build a kilometer-long infiltration ditch to capture rainwater and use it to irrigate crops in Cuzco, in Peru’s Andes highlands. CREDIT: Janet Nina/IPS
CUZCO, Peru , Dec 22 2021 (IPS) – “When I was a little girl we didn’t suffer from water shortages like we do now. Today we are experiencing more droughts, our water sources are drying up and we cannot sit idly by,” Kely Quispe, a small farmer from the community of Huasao, located half an hour from Cuzco, the capital of Peru’s ancient Inca empire, told IPS.
She is one of the 80 members of the Agroecological School of the Flora Tristan Peruvian Women’s Center, a non-governmental institution that has worked for the recovery of water sources through traditional techniques known as seeding and harvesting water in this part of the southern Andean region of Cuzco.
Muñapata, Huasao and Sachac are the three rural Quechua-speaking communities in the province of Quispicanchi, located between 3150 and 3800 meters above sea level, that have so far benefited from the project. The feminist-oriented institution promotes solutions based on nature and community work to address the problem of water scarcity and inadequate water use practices.
“We want to boost water security as well as gender equality because they are two sides of the same coin,” Elena Villanueva told IPS. On Dec. 14 she presented in this city the results of the initiative whose first phase was carried out in 2020 and 2021, with the support of the Basque Development Cooperation Agency and Mugen Gainetik, an international association for cooperation with countries of the developing South also based in Spain’s northern Basque region.
According to the National Water Authority (ANA), Peru is the eighth country in the world in terms of water availability, with a rich hydrodiversity of glaciers, rivers, lakes, lagoons and aquifers. However, various factors such as inefficient management of water and uneven territorial distribution of the population, in addition to climate change, make it impossible to meet consumption demands.
“The lack of water severely affects families in rural areas because they depend on small-scale agriculture for their livelihoods. The melting of glaciers as well as the increase in the frequency and intensity of droughts due to climate change are reducing water availability,” Villanueva explained.
This impact, she said, is not neutral. Because of the gender discrimination and social disadvantages they face, it is rural women who bear the brunt, as their already heavy workload is increased, their health is undermined, and their participation in training and decision-making spaces is further limited.
Kely Quispe, a farmer trained at the Flora Tristán Center’s Agroecological School, holds a tomato in her organic garden in the farming community of Huasao. Her vegetable production depends on access to water for irrigation, but climate change has made water more scarce in the Andes highlands region of Cuzco in southern Peru. CREDIT: Janet Nina/IPS
“Moreover, although they are the ones who use water to ensure food, hygiene and health, and to irrigate their crops, they are not part of the decision-making with regard to its management and distribution,” she stressed.
The expert said that precisely in response to demand by the women farmers at the Agroecological School, where they receive technical and rights training, they are focusing on reviving water harvesting techniques used in ancient Peru, while promoting the equal participation of women in rural communities in the process.
She said that approximately 700 families living in poverty, some 3,500 people – about 11 percent of the population of the three communities – will benefit from the works being carried out.
So far, these works are focused on the afforestation of 15 hectares and the construction of six “cochas” – the name for small earthen ponds, in the Quechua language – and an infiltration ditch, as part of a plan that will be expanded with other initiatives over the next two years.
The ditch, which is one kilometer long in 10-meter stretches, 60 centimeters deep and 40 centimeters wide and is located in the upper part of the community, collects rainwater instead of letting it run down the slopes.
The technique allows water to infiltrate slowly in order to feed natural springs, high altitude wetlands or small native prairies, as well as the cochas.
The mayor of the rural community of Sachac, Eugenio Turpo Quispe (right), poses with other leaders of the village of 200 families who will benefit from the forestation works and the construction of small reservoirs and infiltration ditches that will increase the flow of water in this highlands area that is suffering from prolonged droughts due to climate change. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS
In their communal work, villagers use local materials and greenhouse thermal blankets to help retain water. In addition, they have used extracted soil to raise the height of the ditch, to keep rainwater from running over the top.
Although the ditch has been receiving rainwater this month (the rainy season begins in November-December), the ecosystem impact is expected to be more visible in about three years when the cocha ponds have year-round water availability, helping villagers avoid the shortages of the May-October dry season.
Several community members explained to IPS that they will now be able to harvest water from the ditch while at the same time caring for the soil, because heavy rain washes it away and leaves it without nutrients. Some 150 agricultural plots will also benefit from a sprinkler irrigation system, thanks to the project.
Since agriculture is the main livelihood of the families and this activity depends on rainwater, the main impact will be the availability of water during the increasingly prolonged dry periods to irrigate their crops, ensure harvests and avoid hunger, for both villagers and their livestock.
Eucalyptus and pine, huge consumers of water
The mayor of the Sachac community, Eugenio Turpo Quispe, told IPS that this is the first time that water seeding and harvesting practices have been carried out in his area. “We had not had the opportunity before; these works have begun thanks to the women who proposed forestation and the construction of cochas and ditches,” he said.
The local leader lamented that due to misinformation, two decades ago they planted pine and eucalyptus in the highlands of his community. “They have dried up our water sources, and when it rains the water disappears, it does not infiltrate. Now we know that out of ten liters of rain that falls on the ground, eight are absorbed by the eucalyptus and only two return to the earth,” he explained during the day that IPS spent in the community.
Women farmers from the rural community of Sachac show the map of water sources in their area and the uses for irrigation of their crops, for human consumption and household needs, as well as watering their animals, which they cannot satisfy throughout the year due to the increasingly long and severe dry season. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS
Turpo Quispe said they had seen forestation and construction of cochas and ditches in other communities, but did not know how to replicate them, and that only through the Flora Tristán Center’s project have they been able to implement these solutions to tackle the serious problem of shrinking water sources.
In Sachac, the three techniques have been adopted with the participation of women and men in communal work that began at six in the morning and ended at four in the afternoon. “Side by side we have been planting native plants, digging ditches and hauling stones for the cochas,” the mayor said proudly.
In this community, 9,000 seedlings of queuñas (Polylepis) and chachacomos (Escallonia Resinosas) – tree species that were used in the times of the ancient Inca empire – were planted. “These trees consume only two liters of rainwater and give eight back to Pachamama (Mother Earth),” Turpo Quispe said. As part of the project, the community has built fences to protect crops and has relocated grazing areas for their animals.
“We have planted seedlings and in 10 or 15 years our children and grandchildren will see all our hills green and with living springs so that they do not suffer a lack of water,” the mayor said.
Kely Quispe from the community of Huasao is equally upbeat: “With water we can irrigate our potatoes, corn and vegetables; increase our production to have enough to sell and have extra money; take care of our health and that of the whole family, and prevent the spread of covid.”
“But just as we use water for life, it is also up to us to participate on an equal footing with men in irrigation committees and community councils to decide how it is distributed, conserved and managed,” she added.
A model shows the water sources in the rural community of Muñapata in the Cuzco region, in Peru’s southern highlands. It was made by local women and men who built a system based on ancestral techniques for the collection and management of water, as increasing drought threatens their lives and crops. CREDIT: Mariela Jara/IPS
The decade of water security
Villanueva of the Flora Tristán Center said it was important for the country’s local and regional authorities to commit to guaranteeing water security in rural areas within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development was declared for 2018-2028 by the United Nations and SDG6 is dedicated to water and sanitation, to ensure universal and equitable access for all, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, and support the participation of local communities in improving management and sanitation.
“At the national level, public policies aimed at seeding and harvesting water should be strengthened because they revive the communities’ ancestral knowledge, involving sustainable practices with low environmental impact that contribute to guaranteeing the food security of families,” she said.
However, Villanueva remarked, in order to achieve their objectives, these measures must not only promote equal participation of men and women, but must also be accompanied by actions to close the gender gap in education, access to resources, training and violence that hinder the participation and development of rural women.
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 2021 (IPS) – The planet is already 1.1°C warmer than in pre-industrial times. July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded in 142 years. Despite the pandemic slowdown, 2020 was the hottest year so far, ending the warmest decade (2011-2020) ever.
Betrayal in Glasgow Summing up widespread views of the recently concluded Glasgow climate summit, former Irish President Mary Robinson observed, “People will see this as a historically shameful dereliction of duty,… nowhere near enough to avoid climate disaster”.
A hundred civil society groups lambasted the Glasgow outcome: “Instead of a multilateral agreement that puts forward a clear path to address the climate crisis, we are left with a document that takes us further down the path of climate injustice.”
Even if countries fulfil their Paris Agreement pledges, global warming is now expected to rise by 2.7°C from pre-industrial levels by century’s end. Authoritative projections suggest that if all COP26 long-term pledges and targets are met, the planet will still warm by 2.1℃ by 2100.
The United Nations Environment Programme suggests a strong chance of global warming disastrously rising over 1.5°C in the next two decades. Earlier policy targets – to halve global carbon emissions by 2030, and reach ‘net-zero’ emissions by 2050 – are now recognized as inadequate.
The Glasgow UN Framework Convention on Climate Change 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) was touted as the world’s ‘last best hope’ to save the planet. Many speeches cited disturbing trends, but national leaders most responsible for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions offered little.
Thus, developing countries were betrayed yet again. Despite contributing less to accelerating global warming, they are suffering its worst consequences. They have been left to pay most bills for ‘losses and damages’, adaptation and mitigation.
Glasgow setbacks Glasgow’s two biggest hopes were not realized: renewing targets for 2030 aligned with limiting warming to 1.5℃, and a clear strategy to mobilize the grossly inadequate US$100bn yearly – promised by rich country leaders before the Copenhagen COP in 2009 – to help finance developing countries’ efforts.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram
An exasperated African legislator dismissed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use as an “empty pledge”, as “yet another example of Western disingenuousness … taking on the role of ‘white saviour’” while exploiting the African rain forest.
Meanwhile, far too many loopholes open to abuse remain, undermining efforts to reduce emissions. Further, no commitment to end fossil fuel subsidies globally – at US$11 million every minute, i.e., around US$6 trillion annually – was forthcoming.
No new oil and gas fields should be developed for the world to have a chance of getting to net-zero by 2050. Nevertheless, governments are still approving such projects, typically involving transnational corporate giants.
Various measures – e.g., ‘carbon capture and storage’ and ‘offsetting’ – have been touted as solutions. But carbon capture and storage technologies remain controversial, unproven at scale, expensive and rarely cost-competitive.
The Glasgow outcome did not include any commitment to fully phase out oil and gas. Meanwhile, the language on coal has been diluted to become virtually toothless: coal-powered plants will now be ‘phased down’, instead of ‘phased out’.
Offsets off track Offset market advocates claim to reduce emissions or remove GHGs from the atmosphere by some to ‘off-set’ emissions by others. Thus, offsetting often means paying someone poor to cut GHG emissions or forcing them to pay someone else to do so. With more means, big business can more easily afford to ‘greenwash’.
Carbon offset markets have long overpromised, but underdelivered. As they typically exaggerate GHG emission reduction claims, offsetting is a poor substitute for actually cutting fossil fuel use. Meanwhile, disagreements over offset rules have long stalled international climate change negotiations.
More than 130 countries have committed to achieve net-zero by 2050. But net-zero targeting has actually allowed the world to continue kicking the can down the road, instead of acting decisively and urgently to verifiably cut GHG emissions.
Hence, it is seen as a cynical “scam”, “nothing more than an expensive cover-up for continued toxic emissions”. Trading non-verifiable offsets – supposedly to achieve net-zero – allows continuing GHG emissions with business almost as usual.
Loss and damage? Vulnerable and poor nations have argued for decades that rich countries owe them compensation for irreversible damage from global warming. In fact, no UN climate conference has delivered any funding for losses and damages to countries affected.
Rich countries agreed to begin a ‘dialogue’ to discuss “arrangements for the funding of activities to avert, minimize and address loss and damage”. Representing developing nations, Guinea expressed “extreme disappointment” at this ruse to delay progress on financing recovery from and rebuilding after climate disasters.
Low-lying small island nations – from the Marshall Islands to Fiji and Antigua – fear losing much of their land to rising sea levels. But their longstanding call to create a ‘loss and damage’ fund was rejected yet again.
South Pacific island representatives have expressed disappointment at lack of funding for losses and damages, and the watered down language on coal. For them, COP26 was a ‘monumental failure’, leaving them in existential peril.
Although historical responsibility for GHG emissions lies primarily with the wealthy countries, especially the US and the European Union, once again, they have successfully evaded serious commitments to address such longstanding problems due to global warming.
Climate injustice For the UN Secretary-General, “[o]ver the past 25 years, the richest 10% of the global population has been responsible for more than half of all carbon emissions, and the poorest 50% were responsible for just 7% of emissions”.
The World Bank estimates that, if left unchecked, climate change will condemn 132 million more people into poverty over the next decade, while displacing more than 216 million from their homes and land by 2050.
Meanwhile, poorer countries – who have contributed least to cumulative GHG emissions – continue to suffer most. To address climate injustice, rich countries – most responsible for GHG emissions and global warming – must do much more.
Their finance for developing countries ought to be much more ambitious than US$100bn yearly. Financing terms should be far more generous than currently. Also, funding should prioritize adaptation, especially for the poorest countries most at risk.
One of the family photos taken after the laborious end of the 26th climate summit in Glasgow, which closed a day later than scheduled with a Climate Pact described as falling short by even the most optimistic, lacking important decisions to combat the crisis and without directly confronting fossil fuels, the cause of the emergency. CREDIT: UNFCCC
GLASGOW, Nov 14 2021 (IPS) – Developing countries will surely remember the Glasgow climate summit, the most important since 2015, as a fiasco that left them as an afterthought.
That was the prevailing sentiment among delegates from the developing South during the closing ceremony on the night of Saturday Nov. 13, one day after the scheduled end of the conference.
Bolivia’s chief negotiator, Diego Pacheco, questioned the outcome of the summit. “It is not fair to pass the responsibility to developing countries. Developed countries do not want to acknowledge their responsibility for the crisis. They have systematically broken their funding pledges and emission reduction commitments,” he told IPS minutes after the end of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) on climate change in Glasgow.
The 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ignored the public clamor, which took shape in the demands of indigenous peoples, young people, women, scientists and social movements around the world for substantive measures to combat the climate crisis, even though the goal of containing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is barely surviving on life support.
The Glasgow Climate Pact that came out of the summit finally mentions the need to move away from the use of coal. But it had to water down the stronger recommendation to “phase out” in order to overcome the last stumbling block.
In addition, COP26 broke a taboo, albeit very tepidly, after arduous marches and counter-marches in the negotiating room and in the three drafts of the Glasgow Pact: there was a mention of fossil fuels as part of the climate emergency. And it also stated the need to reduce “inefficient” subsidies for fossil fuels.
But the summit, where decisions are made by consensus, avoided a strong stance in this regard. It also avoided moving from recommendations to obligations for the next edition, to be held in Egypt, and those that follow, while the climate crisis continues causing severe droughts, devastating storms, melting of the polar ice caps and warming of the oceans.
In a plenary session that was delayed by several minutes, the final declaration underwent a last-minute change when India, one of the villains of the meeting – along with Saudi Arabia, Australia and Russia – asked for the phrase “phasing out” of coal to be replaced by “phasing down”, a change questioned by countries such as Mexico, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
A paradoxical fact at the close of COP26, where civil society organizations complained that they were left out, was the decision of several countries to endorse the final text even though they differed on several points, including the fossil energy face-lifts.
“Today, we can say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees within reach. But its pulse is weak. And it will only survive if we keep our promises. If we translate commitments into rapid action,” said conference chairman Alok Sharma, choking back tears after a pact – albeit a minimal one – was reached by negotiating three drafts and holding arduous discussions on the fossil fuel question, right up to the final plenary.
COP26 chair Alok Sharma blinked back tears during his closing speech at the climate summit, expressing the tension of negotiating the Glasgow Climate Pact, due to the hurdles thrown in the way of a consensus by the big coal and oil producers. CREDIT: UNFCCC-Twitter
The South is still waiting
Lost amidst the impacts of the climate emergency and forgotten by the industrialized countries, the global South failed to obtain something vital for many of its nations: a clear plan and funding for loss and damage, an issue that was deferred to COP27 in Egypt.
Mohamed Adow, director of the non-governmental Power Shift Africa, said the pact is “not good enough…There is no mention of solidarity and justice. We need a clear process to face loss and damage. There should be a link between emission reduction, financing and adaptation.”
The final decision by China, the United States, India and the European Union to turn their backs on a global fossil fuel exit and deny climate support to the most vulnerable nations left the developing world high and dry.
“There are things that cannot wait to COP27 or 2025. To face loss and damage, the most vulnerable countries need financing to battle the impacts on their territories,” Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, global climate and energy leader for the non-governmental World Wildlife Fund, told IPS.
The summit focused on carbon market rules, climate finance of at least 100 billion dollars per year, gaps between emission reduction targets and needed reductions, strategies for carbon neutrality by 2050, adaptation plans, and the working platform for local communities and indigenous peoples.
But the goal of hundreds of billions of dollars per year has been postponed, a reflection of the fact that financing for climate mitigation and adaptation is a touchy issue, especially for developed countries.
The corridors of the Blue Zone of the Scottish Events Campus, where the official part of the 26th Climate Conference was held in the city of Glasgow, were emptying on Saturday Nov. 13, at the end of the summit, which lasted a day longer than scheduled and ended with a negative balance according to civil society organizations. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS
Offers and promises – on paper
One breakthrough at COP26 was the approval of the rules of the Paris Agreement, signed in the French capital in December 2015, at COP21, to form the basis on which subsequent summits have revolved. By 2024, all countries will have to report detailed data on emissions, which will form a baseline to assess future greenhouse gas reductions.
Industrialized countries committed to doubling adaptation finance by 2025 based on 2019 amounts. In addition, COP26 approved a new work program to increase greenhouse gas cuts, with reports due in 2022.
It also asked the UNFCCC to evaluate climate plans that year and its final declaration calls on countries to switch from coal and hydrocarbons to renewable energy.
Apart from the Climate Pact, the summit produced voluntary commitments against deforestation, emissions of methane, a gas more polluting than carbon dioxide, and the phasing out of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
In addition, at least 10 countries agreed to put an end to the issuing of new hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation licenses in their territories.
Furthermore, some thirty nations agreed to suspend public funding for coal, gas and oil by 2022.
Demonstrations demanding ambitious, substantive and equitable measures to address the climate crisis continued throughout the 14-day climate summit in Glasgow, which ended on the night of Saturday Nov. 13 with disappointing results for the global South. CREDIT: Emilio Godoy/IPS
Finally, more than 100 stakeholders, including countries and companies, signed up to the elimination of cars with internal combustion engines by 2030, without the major automobile manufacturers such as Germany, Spain and France joining in, and a hundred nations signed a pact to promote sustainable agriculture.
All of the 2030 pledges, which still need concrete plans for implementation, imply a temperature rise of 2.8 degrees C by the end of this century, according to the independent Climate Action Tracker.
In addition, annual adaptation costs in developing countries would be about 70 billion dollars, reaching a total of 140 to 300 billion dollars by 2030, according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
But the largest disbursements are related to loss and damage, which would range between 290 billion and 580 billion dollars by 2030, and hence the enormous concern of these nations to obtain essential financing, according to a 2019 study. And their disappointment with the results of the Oct. 31-Nov.13 conference.
During his presentation at the closing plenary, Seve Paeniu, a climate envoy from Tuvalu, an island nation whose very existence is threatened by the rising sea level, showed a photo of his three grandchildren and said he had been thinking about what to say to them when he got home.
“Glasgow has made a promise to guarantee their future. It will be the best Christmas gift that I can bring home,” he said. But judging by the Climate Pact, Paeniu may have to look for another present.