Tuesday, July 19, 2016

[biofuelwatch] Fwd: Environment and Poverty in Africa

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From: Betockvoices The voiceless Farmer <betockvoices@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, Jul 20, 2016 at 1:28 AM
Subject: Environment and Poverty in Africa

Environment and Poverty in Africa

Sustainable development requires significant changes in the mind-set whether it is about changing the way goods are produced and consumed, the way we set our political and social priorities, or about the way we sense the dangers to the planet's ecosystem. In other words, sustainable development is about learning to make better decisions than we have made in the past.

The framework underlying the sustainable development concept is based on the Brundtland definition – to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This very general definition is then expanded into four broad aims:

• a healthy economy should be maintained to promote quality of life while at the same time protecting human health and the environment;

• non-renewable resources should be used optimally;

• renewable resources should be used sustainably;

• damage to the carrying capacity of the environment and the risk to human health  and biodiversity from the effects of economic activity should be minimized.

Environmental information is a key element in achieving a good level of public involvement and participation in the process of sustainable development. Africa has enormous resources in their natural biodiversity and traditional knowledge systems that have the potential to be harnessed for sustainable economic development. Effective management calls for a change in the attitudes of the public and civil society in order to identify, assess and record these resources

Poverty and environmental protection are closely linked as Africa's development blueprint, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), makes clear. NEPAD's environmental action plan states that

Africa is characterized by two interrelated features: rising poverty levels and deepening environmental degradation … poverty remains the main cause and consequence of environmental degradation and resource depletion in Africa. Without significant improvement in the living conditions and livelihoods of the poor, environmental policies and programmes will achieve little success.

In Africa, there is a strong link between poverty and degradation of natural resources. For example, land degradation and desertification contribute to increased poverty, insecurity and the deterioration of the lives of African people.

The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) recognizes both the relationship between poverty and environmental degradation in underdeveloped countries as well as the problem of unsustainable production and consumption patterns in developed countries. The protection of the environment and of natural resources is therefore an essential part of development: without adequate environmental capital, development is undermined and this in turn may reduce the resources available for investing in combating environmental damage. Hence poverty alleviation is not only a moral imperative but also a prerequisite for environmental sustainability and sustainable development.

Africa faces many challenges relating to sustainable development. Over the past 30 years, the environment in Africa has continued to deteriorate. Thousands of people in Africa have already died from starvation brought about by environmental degradation. Millions more people are faced with imminent disaster because their water sources have run dry, their land has become so denuded they cannot rear livestock, and the soil so poor they cannot cultivate it. According to the FAO, "poverty alleviation and environmental protection will remain the most important priorities over the next two decades".

Africa's severe environmental problems like soil erosion and declining soil fertility, deforestation, pollution of water supplies, and biodiversity loss are everyday, real and critical concerns for African people. The unsustainable management and utilization of natural resources has been exacerbated by poverty and population pressures. With the world's fastest growing population, averaging about 3% a year, the region will be home to more than a billion people by the year 2025. The continent's population growth rate ranks highest in the world and therefore places additional strains on all systems.

The majority of poor people live in rural areas and depend directly or indirectly on terrestrial and marine natural systems for income generation. Africa poverty has contributed to accelerated degradation of natural resources. It is estimated that two-thirds of the region's people live in rural areas and depend primarily on agriculture and other natural resources for income. In Africa, the poor depend on natural ecosystems for their livelihoods and live in the most fragile and degraded rural and urban areas. Though offering an enormous potential in natural and human resources, Africa is plagued by a rampant poverty affecting both rural and urban populations along with tremendous impacts on the environment. Alongside this situation, the standard of living has drastically deteriorated due to the lack of an efficient system of domestic and/or industrial waste management.

The region is losing its natural resources at relatively rapid rates in comparison with other regions of the world. Africa is losing millions of hectares of forest every year. Its wildlife population of rich and unique species of animals and plants is under increasing pressure. Africa's biological resources are declining rapidly as a result of climate variability, habitat loss, over-harvesting of selected resources, and illegal activities. Yet biodiversity contributes to poverty reduction in at least five key areas: food security; health improvement; income generation, reduced vulnerability, and ecosystem services.

Environmental degradation contributes markedly to many health threats, including polluted air, dirty water, poor sanitation, and insect-transmitted diseases such as malaria. Lack of availability and low quality of freshwater are the two most limiting factors for development in Africa, constraining food production and industrial activities, and contributing significantly to the burden of disease. Land degradation and water shortages in many parts of Africa are a major threat to the ability of poor farmers to earn a living from the land. Land quality and productivity are declining in cultivated areas, rangelands and forests resulting in reduced agricultural yields, affecting economies and food security; desertification of arid areas, raising competition for remaining resources; and increased potential for conflict. Land degradation impacts are felt most keenly by the poor because they are forced to cultivate on river shores and marginal lands such as desert margins which get degraded more rapidly. The poor also often live in degraded urban environments, including sites close to waste disposal areas or vulnerable to flooding

Real, lasting poverty reduction is only possible if the environment is able to provide the services people depend on, and if natural resources are used in a manner that does not undermine long-term development. African countries' ever increasing population demands creative efforts to find new ways of producing more food from the country's finite resources. African governments should link biodiversity conservation with policies to overcome poverty, especially in local communities that live around protected areas and in zones richly endowed with biodiversity through the sustainable use of the resources.

Deforestation is a major problem for the environment and is partly caused by unsustainable agricultural practices including forest clearance for agricultural activities, mining and harvesting timber, poles and fuel wood. Environmental damage almost always hits poor people the hardest and the overwhelming majority of those who die each year die from air and water pollution are poor people.

Africa has been experiencing a rapid rate of urbanization which leads to high-density slums, where the risk of contamination from unsafe water and poor sanitation is highest. Most African poor people living in rural communities depend directly on natural resources for their livelihood opportunities. These are under pressure from domestic and foreign consumer demands. Most local communities are heavily dependent on forest products, natural resources and ecological services for their livelihoods and for daily subsistence. They are affected by the degradation of the environment caused by poor land, pollution, and exhausted natural resources.

Natural ecosystems provide most of the world's poor with food, fuel, medicine, building materials and cultural identity. In addition to satisfying these immediate needs, natural resources provide services such as global climate and are reservoirs for globally important biodiversity resources. Land degradation and forest biodiversity loss are major problems in Africa due to increasing population pressure, climate change, erosion, water scarcity, unsustainable agricultural practices and exploitation of forests. Farmers have little support from their governments who are not allocating sufficient budgets to agriculture. In addition, a large section of the African population in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity or other modern cooking energy, with significant costs in terms of forest degradation, time spent on firewood collection and health problems due to indoor pollution. Undeveloped science and technology and lack of access to energy lead to large post-harvest losses due to spoilage, poor storage and transport facilities.

It is widely acknowledged that climate change is likely to pose a major challenge to community livelihoods, including agriculture, natural resources and fresh water, as a result of rising temperatures. Africa contributes the least to climate change and has the least capacity to adapt, yet will still bear the brunt of extreme weather patterns leading to natural resources deterioration. It is the developed world that has been, and still remains, responsible for most human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. Yet it is the poorest countries that are likely to be the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Priority action

  • Researching and promoting natural resources, biodiversity and crops that are best suited to higher temperatures;
  • Enhancing community based environmental conservation programmes by linking conservation to income-generating potential;
  • Supporting the use of ecological agricultural practices such as composting, water and soil conservation activities, agroforestry and crop diversification;
  • Promoting organic agriculture which combines traditional agriculture and utilizes both traditional and scientific knowledge, based on appropriate agro-ecosystem management rather than on external inputs that famers cannot afford;
  • Researching and adopting new, appropriate and affordable technologies for sustainable farming, sustainable agriculture, access to energy and water and sanitation;
  • Promoting sustainable agriculture and traditional farming practices, building on indigenous knowledge in partnership with farmers;
  • Developing alternatives to reduce reliance on biomass and to introduce clean energy in rural areas, dissemination of energy efficient tools, introducing fast growing energy trees and training in agroforestry;
  • Providing training to farmers in tree nursery management, agroforestry, rainwater harvesting/water use efficiency and monitoring water resources;
  • Undertaking research to promote community biotechnology for food security, and develop conservation of community-based strategies including local varieties, domesticated animal and plant species, seed banks, and local seed production and sharing;
  • Designing training strategies of farmers in sustainable and climate-smart agriculture practices and improve related extension systems;
  • Establishing farmer field schools to develop and disseminate the knowledge base on sustainable agricultural practices and sustainable use of natural resources based on participatory research, farmers' knowledge and experience;
  • Increasing public awareness of environmental concerns, and the influence they have as citizens and consumers on the ecological footprint as a tool for increasing understanding of unsustainable consumption and learning how to make more sustainable choices;
  • Creating policies and incentives for in situ conservation by farmers of traditional varieties that are in danger of being lost, including providing incentives to smallholder farmers in Africa for carbon sequestration and ecosystem services.
  • Sourced - http://www.conserveafrica.org.uk/sustainable-development-and-local-communities-in-africa/environment-and-poverty-in-africa/


Posted by: Betockvoices The voiceless Farmer <betockvoices@gmail.com>


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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

[Biofuelwatch] Biofuelwatch July Newsletter

Biofuelwatch Newsletter July 2016
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Dear subscriber, this is the July edition of our newsletter, with news of our campaigns, the campaigns we support, and important policy developments. 

Newsletter Content:
  1. #AxeDrax: Roundup of protests and events during Drax's AGM 
  2. What does Brexit mean for energy justice and for Biofuelwatch's work?
  3. Open Letter urges E.On to scrap their biomass plans in southern France
  4. News from local campaigns against biomass plants in the UK
  5. Updates from our joint blogs: Geoengineering Watch and Synbio Watch
  6. Biofuelwatch case study about Mascoma, a US cellulosic company which spent tens of millions of public dollars on commercial refineries that were never built
Photo: Guy Bell

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1. #AxeDrax: Roundup of protests and events during Drax's AGM 

For full background information about Drax and the #AxeDrax campaign see here.

On 22nd April, scores of people of all ages gathered outside the Drax  AGM in the City of London to protest against burning millions of tonnes of wood and coal, and against Drax profiting from subsidies which should be going towards truly low-carbon and renewable energy. See a short video from the demonstration here. The protest featured the Draxosaurus, a very chic cooling tower and grim DECC complete with axe. See pictures here and here. Speeches made by members of Biofuelwatch, Care2, Colombia Solidarity, London Mining Network and the Coal Action Network can be viewed here. Attenders to the AGM were handed a Warning to Investors. A number of people went into the AGM to ask difficult questions. Meanwhile, Drax power station was visited by members of Sheffield People & Planet in a solidarity action

Read More

2. What does Brexit mean for energy justice and for Biofuelwatch's work?

Right now, none of us can foresee what future UK energy and climate policy will look like following the Brexit Referendum.  Clearly, much will depend on who will end up in government over the next few years, and what the outcome of the two years of Brexit negotiations with the EU is going to be (presuming that those will indeed happen). Until such time as the UK leaves the EU (which takes at least two years), EU Directives and policy will continue to apply in the UK as before.

For our campaign, there will be two big priorities now:

Firstly, we will support other environmental NGOs across the UK to defend our environmental regulations, which are under serious threat following the 'Leave' vote.  Outside the EU, air quality and air emissions regulations, the Nature Directives (vital for protecting biodiversity), and many more would be under serious threat.  The UK and the devolved governments must commit to preserving – if not improving – those regulations in domestic legislation.

Secondly, we will continue to work with others and campaign for drastic and meaningful changes to energy policy both in the EU and UK.  We urgently need an energy policy that genuinely reduces our contribution to climate change whilst protecting communities both at home and abroad.  The climate crisis demands a rapid phase out of fossil fuel burning as well as the protection and regeneration of forests and other ecosystems.  'Cleaning up' renewables policies is a vital contribution towards this aim.  Sustainable wind and solar power are renewable, cutting and down and burning forests in power stations is not.  A choice between fossil fuels and big biomass plus biofuels is a dangerous and false choice!

See here for our full statement and thoughts.

If you live in Scotland, please take part in an e-alert launched by Friends of the Earth Scotland.  They are calling on party leaders in Scotland to commit to protecting environmental regulations, which include the EU Air Quality Directive and the Nature Directives, regardless of what happens with regards to the UK's (or Scotland's) EU membership.  
3. Open Letter urges E.On to scrap their biomass plans in southern France

26 civil society society groups worldwide have sent an Open Letter to E.On demanding that the energy corporation scraps plans to convert a mothballed coal power station in Gardanne, southern France, to burning wood pellets.  Residents, environmental campaigners and local authorities in southern France have been protesting against those for plans since they were first mooted more than two years ago. 

The Open Letter  was initiated by German environmental campaigners who want to build pressure on the German energy corporation E.On in solidarity with the grassroots opposition to the plant in southern France.

SOS ForĂȘt du Sud and others fear that the power station will devastate biodiverse natural forests in France, including in the Cevenne National Park.  Forests elsewhere, quite possibly in North America, are also at risk because E.On states that at first most of the wood will be imported.

See here for a joint press release.

Image: Rettet den Regenwald/Rainforest Rescue
4. News from local campaigns against biomass plants in the UK

Biofuelwatch continues to support local campaigns against proposed and existing biomass power stations in the UK.  In recent months, we have supported campaigners in West Thurrock, in Andover, in Milford Haven, and in Norwich.  For a roundup of news on those campaigns, please see biofuelwatch.org.uk/local-campaigns-uk.

We would love to hear from people who live close to other biomass power station sites, in particular anyone living in Anglesey or Neath and Port Talbot (where Orthios Energy are proposing two huge biomass power stations), in Teesside (where MGT Power wants to build a large plant) and near Lynemouth (where Czech energy company EPH is converting the mothballed Lynemouth Power Station to biomass).
5. Updates from GeoengineeringMonitor and Synbio Watch

Synbiowatch.org hosting first in a series of webinars on synthetic biology

Outsmarting Nature? A webinar on synthetic biology for crops and agriculture will take place on Thursday 21st July, streamed live on synbiowatch.org. Join in to hear what the role of synthetic biology is in our food system, and how it relates to "climate-smart" agriculture, as well as the costs and risks of the new technologies being developed. For full info on speakers, timings and how to participate, please see: 

Updates from GeoengineeringMonitor.org

GeoengineeringMonitor.org is a collaboration between Biofuelwatch and ETC Group, and aims to provide a platform for civil society voices to be heard in opposition to geoengineering as a climate solution, as well as "negative emissions" technologies, and "net zero" emissions instead of genuine emissions reductions. Here's the latest from the site:

Norway shows how "net zero" rhetoric is utterly meaningless
In the aftermath of the Paris Agreement, nature and humanity lose
Response to: Do we need BECCS to avoid dangerous climate change?
Vultures are circling after Paris agreement: the carbon dioxide removal sector wants more funding.

6. Biofuelwatch case study on Mascoma: a US cellulosic company which spent tens of millions of public dollars on commercial refineries that were never built

Biofuelwatch has published an investigation into Mascoma Corporation, a US corporation, that took at least $100 million and possibly over $155 million in public subsidies, mostly for building commercial cellulosic ethanol refineries which they never even started to build.  We believe that this case illustrates the dangers of advocating subsidies for 'next generation biofuel' technologies, which have little prospect of commercial success but to which huge sums of public funds have been diverted over many years.  Rather than pinning ones hopes on unproven technologies, which would create yet more demand for biomass and land, as well as involving high-risk, genetically engineered microorganisms, we need real, credible policies to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.  Carbon emissions from the transport sector could be drastically reduced if financial support was shifted from private transport and aviation to cycling, walking and public transport. Policies should be geared towards reducing the need to travel, and imposing strict efficiency standards. Pouring billions into unproven new biofuel technologies is a dangerous distraction from those priorities.
Photo: Oak Ridge National Laboratory working on synthetic biology for the form of cellulosic ethanol production which Mascoma pursued

 Biofuelwatch 2016 . Contact us: biofuelwatch@ymail.com biofuelwatch.org.uk

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