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Talks underway as civil society demands transition away from fossil fuels to achieve sustainable food system

NGOs and social movements have gathered in Milan at the Expo dei Popoli Forum on Food Sovereignty to discuss the need for governments and the agricultural sector to raise their ambition to tackle agricultural emissions, phase out fossil fuels, and switch to 100% renewable energy in order to protect food sovereignty and livelihoods around the world.

The existing global food sector accounts for around 30% of the world’s total energy consumption and for around 22% of total greenhouse gas emissions. This contributes to rising temperatures, increased desertification and more unpredictable, severe rainfall patterns.

Today 805 million people suffer from hunger and climate impacts are making things worse by causing overall crop yields to decline in many African and Asian countries. The global food supply network is complex and everyone faces more food insecurity as a result of climate change hitting crops and infrastructure - but it is the most vulnerable set to suffer the most.

Transitioning to an agricultural system powered by renewable energy will give small-scale farmers more energy access than ever before. For instance, solar refrigeration technologies can be used in regions with lots of sunlight to keep food cool and reduce food waste. Wind, water and solar powered mills can be used to extract oil from crops, cutting both the expenses and pollution of fossil fuel based engines and generators.

As UN climate negotiations in Bonn continue, groups across civil society who took part in this weekend’s 100% renewable mass mobilisations will continue to call on parties to phase out coal, which contributes a whopping 40% of the world’s carbon emissions and thus directly contributes to climate change’s impact on world hunger. If we do not act to phase out this dirty fuel, another 50 million people could be pushed into hunger by 2050 as a result of climate change. (Oxfam, 2015)  

 

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Beyond the walls of the UNFCCC

Adrian Yeo gives a presentation on his CAN Leadership Development Programme study tour in Norway. 
 
Norway is an obvious choice of location for the CAN Leadership Development Programme study tour. The level of environment awareness and sustainable responsibility in Norway is among the highest in the world. While 96% of their local energy source coming from hydro power, they are also the top 10 oil producing countries. It was enlightening to learn how  Norwegian civil society organisations work within such dynamics and how we can bring learnings back to our own countries.
 
We were excited with the dynamic discussion in the seminar on “Net-Zero Emissions” hosted by ‘ForUM for Utvikling og Miljo’. Here we wanted to answer the following questions:
 
What is the real meaning net-zero emissions ?
What technologies do we have today to achieve net-zero emission?
How is it perceived by various stakeholders?
 
To start with, we learnt that there are several ways to describe strategies or ways to achieve net-zero emissions. Terms likes geo-engineering, decarbonisation are  relatively new terms while Bio-Energy Carbon Capture & Storage (BECCS) has been widely used within the UNFCCC and is more commonly referred to. Camilla Skriung from ZERO presented a case for the adoption of Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) in Norway and the rest of the world. She argued that decarbonisation is extremely difficult without using CCS in the near future.
 
Bård Lahn from Regnskogfondet (Rainforest Foundation Norway) reminded us of a different view. He mentioned that one thing often missed out from discussion is the technology to keep the trees in the forest standing. While we filled our mind with the efforts to solve the impending climate crisis, we often forget that prevention is often the best solution.
Pat Mooney from ETC-Group continued by sharing the story about the iron-pumping-plankton growing projects that failed in the past, and similar patterns and worrying paths that can be observed in recent attempt on solar radiation management projects. However he also stressed the potentially shock-knee-jerk adverse decision that may occur in the coming decades if this climate crisis continues. 
 
Then it was our turn, the CAN Leadership Development Program Fellows, Neoka Naidoo from CAN-South Africa and myself Adrian Yeo from CANSEA  to share our strategies & challenges on GHG emissions reductions from our respective countries and regions.
 
This seminar was very encouraging for me. To see the participations from labour unions, university researchers alongside the usual environment NGOs is wonderful. Back in Malaysia, such in-depth discussion on a particular subject only happens within the UNFCCC working groups and only awareness talks happen on a public level. This gave me hope that there is a bigger community that takes the discussion beyond the walls of the convention.
 

The city that (almost) never sleeps, Oslo

Neoka Naidoo blogs from her CAN Leadership Development Fellow study trip to Oslo this week. 

The almost 23 hours of travelling welcomed a beautiful end in Oslo. I had chills of excitement and nervousness coursing through me. There were many hurdles to conquer.

The first hurdle was addressing Norwegian civil society. Public speaking is not my forte but I was calm explaining to a room of 40 people about South Africa‘s energy battle and the sense of how renewable energy is perceived. I explained how South African’s energy is tightly interwoven with our development, and how this is used as an argument by the fossil fuel industry to peptuate our reliance on fossils fuels.

This was accepted and known by the civil society present even as a 1st world nation with an open government. The retail of fossil fuels riddles the Norwegian carbon ‘low’ record with blemishes that can’t be easily removed. Civil society plays a vital role in pointing this out and providing alternatives. With extended sunlight hours we were able to capitalize on working into the wee hours of the morning. We met with lots of different organisations: Zero, WWF Norway, Friends of the Earth Norway, Naturvernforbundet, Youth and Environment and ETC-group. The variation of the groups was great, and allowed us to get a variety of opinions. But think what I found more interesting was the fact we had some of the same fights.

One of the prominent examples is getting the government to divest the biggest pension fund in the world out of the fossil fuel industry. There was sustained pressure from civil society and whilst I was in Oslo there was the long awaited victory. The Parliament of Norway decided before their scheduled voting parliament that there would be measures to move the pension fund out the fossil fuel industry. Norway might midnight sun but the civil society are the ones that shines and this is just one example of how collaboration of like-minded people can achieve something unbelievable.

Norway might be a 1st world country but they are dealing with post-industrial issues that need to be addressed immediately.

I think I had a great realisation that as global civil society we have the same problems and we are not alone. We as a movement are addressing injustices and not just climate change related issues. We all know that ‘Growth for the sake of growth is the same ideology that the cancer cell uses.’ – Edward Abbey

Adrian lends his wisdom on climate communications in Guardian Live Q&A

On Thursday 30th April Adrian Yeo, our Leadership Development Fellow from South East Asia will join a panel of experts for a Guardian Q&A entitled: What are the best ways to communicate climate solutions? Climate communications can be a tricky busieness, so this Live Q&A seeks to shed some light on the most effective ways to get our our messages whilst campaigning and advocating. Joining him on the panel will be our very own CAN Director Wael Hmaidan, as well as Hoda Baraka from 350.org, Ester Agbarakwe, founder of the Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition and Jamie Clarke from Climate Outreach Information Network. 

The LiveQ&A is at 12.00GMT-14.00GMT. Even if you miss the live stream, you can still visit this page to see all the comments and questions. 

Weight on young shoulders. Introducing Amit, our Leadership Development Fellow in the Pacific

Climate change is a problem deeply affecting the Pacific Island countries. As young professionals we have weighty expectations on our shoulders. We are expected, with the support of our elders, to find ways to make our communities more resilient and enable those younger than us to be free of an unsafe and insecure environment created by climate change. Being a victim of climate change during my own childhood, I am inspired to seek opportunities to enhance my leadership capabilities and competencies in the climate and sustainable development sphere, to create a better living environment for the next generation. 

In order to become a leader I’ve undertaken two opportunities. The first, my masters degree in Australia, has allowed me to understand the decision making process on climate and policy development. This is knowledge that I can share with others. But to compliment my studies, I have also become the CAN Leadership Development Fellow in the Pacific. It has been a fantastic experience so far working with CAN International and PICAN. This programme has enabled me to build my own capacity and build relationships with others in the network. Young people are tagged as agents of change and are required to demonstrate themselves as drivers and thought leaders of the future. However, there are few opportunities in the Pacific for young professionals to enhance their leadership capabilities so this programme offers something new. 

With more new challenges facing the Pacific, I hoping to gain competencies on policy issues and decision making process, develop my skills in building coalitions and networks, most importantly improve my communication skills to transfer my knowledge and lesson learnt from this programme to other young people in the Pacific.

In the time machine - a short history of CAN South East Asia

Whilst working on CANSEA’s new website, Leadership Development Fellow Adrian Yeo got the chance to dig through the archives and realised how CANSEA has had to ‘adapt’ over the years…  

CANSEA was established in 1992 with CAN members from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. The first Steering Committee meeting was held the following year. Thailand members joined CANSEA on later years. It was felt that this form of partnership was needed to address the socio-political issues associated with the climate change debate and to exchange information, strengthen communication and coordinate activities at the regional level.

South East Asia is also diverse in history, culture and religions.The diversity in these 4 countries are much celebrated, but that diversity comes with a challenge as they share no common language, making documentation and conversation difficult. Combine this with other challenges, phone calls and air tickets were expensive, skype call was not yet created.  It was amazing to learn that the founding members of CANSEA has the foresight to come together despite such adversity.

My climate change activism started with my involvement in YOUNGO back in 2009. We mobilised over 2,000 youths from around the world towards COP15. English language is widely used, we connected via the internet, information was shared endlessly on emails and google wiki sites. Being in the youth constituency, we worked naively towards a fair, ambitious and binding climate agreement. But how did CANSEA did it back in 1992?

When I attended one of CANSEA meeting recently, it felt more like a close friends gathering rather than a work meeting. The trust that built working over the years was evidently shown in the maturity during negotiation and conflict resolution. Such trust is lacking in today’s UNFCCC processes, from my humble opinion.

When going through the archives, I realised founding documents were produced by a typewriter on the old type of paper. I couldn’t believe that if such documentation were needed during one of the COPs then, it would take a whole truckload of paper instead of our thumb drive or storage in the cloud now. My short involvement with CAN and CANSEA allows me to experience and document the evolution throughout the years. One thing for sure, like climate change, we have to adapt to these changes.

It made me think of the future of CANSEA. My 90’s generation grew up with the popular cartoon “Captain Planet and the Planeteers”, and inspired a whole new generation of environmentalists. Much have changed since.

I wonder what is the green-themed cartoon children watches today, and what that will mean for CANSEA tomorrow?

The ad-hoc what? Reflecting on the Geneva 2015 ADP session

Neoka Naidoo, Leadership Development Fellow from South Africa reflects on her experience of the February 2015 ADP session in Geneva.

Firstly, getting our terms out the way. ADP stands for The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), - what a mouthful! 

On behalf of Project 90 and as a representative of South Africa CAN, I went to Geneva for this bizarrely named session last month. This was my first time being in this space, but I found it interesting and enlightening. There were so many differences to what I experienced in Lima - for example, I noticed there were smaller party delegations with a greater sense of openness to engage with civil society. The conference was held in the old League of Nations building, which is steeped in a history of world changing decisions. I am not sure if it was the environment or the setting itself which was conducive to consensus as opposed to the high-pressure situation in Lima.

The ADP session finished on time with agreement of a 86 page text that included all options. This was somewhat of a disadvantage as the semantics take away from the strength of the elements. I wonder if every option is negotiable and the options are on a varying scale of ambition, will an agreement at COP 21 in Paris just unravel?

The Intended National Determined Contributions were hot on the off record agenda as there were murmurs through the halls of the release dates. In my opinion it is definitely necessary that a full assessment is completed on the all UNFCCC measures that address average global temperature increase and the measures to adapt to a world we are already ‘cooked’ into.

 

Same-same but different? South East Asia's INDCs

Leadership Development Fellow Adrian Yeo, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, gives us his take on how civil society is influencing the region's climate commitments. 

The UNFCCC has decided that each country must produce an ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ (INDC), which will form the foundation for climate action post-2020. They should include specific measures or projects countries will expect to do in order to keep average global temperature rise below 2˚C – the internationally-agreed limit aimed at preventing irreversible climate change.

South East Asia, the region I live in, has been making headway on this process.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to help organise and attend “A-FAB/CAN Workshop for Fair and Ambitious INDCs in Southeast Asia” in Jakarta, Indonesia. It was a collaboration between A-FAB (ASEAN  for a Fair, Ambitious & Binding Global Climate Deal) a regional policy lobby group network and CAN. The workshop aimed to identify each ASEAN country’s position on their INDC and strategise on how to make them more ambitious.

The workshop was always going to be challenging - are the participants ready to strategise just after Lima? Are the technical aspects of the INDC formalised? Do we have the right experts on the subject to lead the discussion?

However the conference opened promisingly. We watched various speakers share their country’s position on climate change and their current thinking on their INDC. It was interesting to hear about the different approaches from a developing country viewpoint and also recognise the risks.

The following day, we delved deeper into strategising strong INDCs in ASEAN’s context. The workshop invited Mr Apichai Sunchindah, former ASEAN Secretariat and Mr Jerald Joseph from ASEAN People Forum (APF) to share great insights on how ASEAN works and our advantages in lobbying INDC in this regional block.

A statement put out by ASEAN last November however does provide us with some hope. This statement contains strong commitments and should be used to remind ASEAN policy makers that it stands as a basis for future INDC’s commitments.

On the final day, I moderated a sharing session, where I tried to supply participants with  practical tools and action items from the previous days of discussion so the ideas could be implemented in their home country. There was also a press briefing conducted for the media on the INDCs and their importance in the run up to Paris COP21. 

The experience of working with regional networks and fellow colleagues enriched my understanding of Southeast Asia. It is a small region which shares many similarities but also has very diverse climate and environmental issues. Like the local Malaysian saying “same-same but different”.

From Rustlers Retreat to Lima - Neoka's first blog

Neoka Naidoo, Leadership Development Fellow from Project 90 by 2030 in South Africa blogs about her experience in the run up to and at COP20. 

In October I attended the South African National Climate Change Response Dialogue (NCCRD), hosted by the Department of Environmental Affairs, just weeks before COP20. The NCCRD aimed to inform the participants on the current state of affairs on climate change. This entailed a report back of their initiatives in place to takcle climate change. I think one of the most powerful outcomes during this time was that civil society organisations agreed on an opening statement. This was a key moment as more collaboration is needed within the broader civil society movement in South Africa. 

The following week I attended the Rustlers Valley Youth retreat, held in partnership with Civicus and the Rustlers Valley Trust. It was an inspiring space where youth members involved in social, economic and environmental justice could converse but also share ideas and collaborate with each other on similar projects. I had the privilege of meeting legends in the South African struggle, George Bizos and Dikgang Moseneke. These stalwarts not only shared their story but their passion. 

These two events allowed me to approach COP 20 with an altered mind-set.

This was my first Conference of the Parties as an observer participant on the inside. It was an interesting affair to say the least. During the opening speeches you could feel the excitement and the ambition from both the COP president Peruvian Minister of the Environment Manuel Pulgar-Vidal and the executive secretary of the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres. They spoke about the importance of the Lima COP in terms of viable outcomes. They specifically spoke about including adaptation in the agreement and efficiency in their work. Various elements were covered during the jammed part two period.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was also high on the agenda, the chairs noting that countries like Peru are developing nations vulnerable to climate change. They impressed the importance that developed nations give financial aid for the great push to alleviate the effects of climate change. However it is important to acknowledge the lack of substantive elements in the text at the end of COP20. The lack of ambition and the stalling tactics are unnecessary and quite astonishing.

We are in this world together and that should not be blurred by political borders and agendas.

South African civil society calls on government to boost national climate action

South African civil society organisations have released a statement to their government calling for less talk and more national action to tackle climate change and boost the clean energy transition. These organisations collectively emphasise that human rights, like access to sufficient food and water, are directly threatened by climate change. They urge the South African government to protect these human rights by taking concerted action to shift away from dirty, resource intensive fossil fuels and harness instead the massive potential of clean, renewable energy. They also provide the South African government with a number of improvements that can be made at the national and sub-national levels to enhance the effectiveness of climate change dialogue and policy-making. You can read the full statement below

Statement from concerned civil society organisations regarding the lack of ambition for the National Climate Change Dialogue

Climate change is the greatest challenge faced by human kind.  Without determined political will and practical action by Government, business and society to tackle both the emissions that cause climate change and the adaptation needed to survive its impacts, we risk derailing development and putting the wellbeing and prosperity of the people of South Africa at risk.  What is more, human activities that drive climate change are destroying biodiversity and ecosystems that are vital to our survival and that of future generations.

The time for words is over, we need action from the South African Government now. Many civil society organisations are therefore coming together to raise our collective voices at this critical point ahead of the next round of climate talks at COP20 in Lima this December. 

South Africa faces a desperate fight for climate justice: many of our poorest communities are already living with the impacts of climate change. Global green house gas emissions continue to rise driving increases in extreme weather events such as drought, flooding and rising temperatures which are leaving people struggling with more water shortages and ever-rising food prices. These impacts fall hardest on the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities but they affect us all.

The South African constitution protects basic human rights including access for all to sufficient water and food and an environment that is not harmful to our health or wellbeing. All of these rights are threatened by climate change. 

The President acknowledges that we are a water scarce country and that climate change will make the situation worse. So why is the Government looking at future coal power stations and increasing mining activity, when taking coal out of the ground then preparing and burning it uses huge amounts of water?

We seek a just transition for South Africa and its people away from the current and planned future dependency on coal, oil, gas and nuclear power toward a socially inclusive development path, built on renewable energy including solar and wind. The South African government must hold to its most ambitious emissions targets if we are to make our vital contribution to global emissions cuts and together hold average global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees.

As such we call on Government to reaffirm its commitment to pursuing not a ‘lower carbon economy’ but a truly inclusive low carbon economy by stopping investments and subsidies into the fossil fuel industry and choosing a pathway that increases investment in renewable energy to unlock greater access to electricity and that focuses on skills development and job creation in the renewable energy sector. 

We are calling on the South African government to show much greater ambition and match words with actions, to stick to and enforce its most ambitious targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.  South Africa must also stand alongside its fellow developing countries, calling on the developed countries that have caused climate change, to do much more to cut their emissions and deliver on the finance and technology transfer needed to support adaptation in developing countries.

To do this effectively, it is time for Government to walk the talk and deliver on its promises. Government has set emissions and policy targets that it is already missing. Fine policies are not enough, we must see real political will to drive the climate change agenda in a coherent way across government, so that development planning takes account of the inter-relations between energy, water, agriculture and food sovereignty.

The ongoing Integrated Energy Planning (IEP) process, which is expected to deliver a final report with a national energy ‘Road Map’ for Cabinet approval this financial year, is the most fundamental indication of government’s commitment to effective climate change response and inclusive development. 

All national and provincial departments – not just the Department of Environmental Affairs – must accelerate putting in place co-ordinated plans to both mitigate for and adapt to climate change, and then get on with delivering interventions that will protect and enhance the lives of all South Africans.

It is the South African people who will bear the full force of climate change so it is the wellbeing and livelihoods of people that should be paramount in efforts to address the issue rather than the interests of those businesses which contribute the most to emissions. 

It is disappointing that the National Climate Change Dialogue favours big business and the current economic paradigm while excluding many of the communities already fighting against increased hunger, water shortages, falling crop yields and lack of access to electricity.

Our organisations re-commit to ensuring that engagement takes place around national development policy, including over the next year as the UNFCCC negotiations move toward COP21 in Paris. Now Government must commit to and guarantee that it will enable regular, meaningful participation of civil society and communities affected by climate change in policy development and implementation.

We call for transparency and high ambition in the process of setting emission reduction targets per economic sector (the Desired Emission Reduction Outcomes). Undertakings by businesses to meet ‘carbon budgets’ should be made public. The work of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change needs to be accounted for. All affected parties must be kept appraised of the nature and content of these processes.

Climate change is happening now. It is affecting the lives of all South Africans. It is time for the South African Government to act, not talk, if we are to avoid worsening hunger, water scarcity and poverty.

The organisations here listed endorse this statement:

Project 90 by 2030

Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI)

Earthlife Africa

Greenpeace Africa

Oxfam in SA

World Wildlife Fund

350.org Africa & Arab world Region

Fossil Free South Africa

 

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