Month: April 2012
What Can or Should Africa Get Out of Rio+20 by Christian Kam
From June 20 to 22, 2012, the entire world has an appointment to meet in Rio de Janeiro for the Earth Summit, commonly known as the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
Historically, this global meeting of Sustainable Development began in 1972 with the first conference held in Stockholm, Sweden. With intervals of ten years, the conference successively held in Nairobi, Kenya (1982), In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1992) and in Johannesburg, South Africa (2002).
We must say that this call by the United Nations is an invitation to states and private sector to “lay the foundations for a world of prosperity, peace and sustainability”. As mentioned by the website www.rio20.net, three topics are on the agenda;
The strengthening of political commitments to sustainable development and,
Review progress and challenges related to implementation and responses to new and emerging challenges of societies.
There are also two other questions at the heart of the summit;
A green economy for sustainability and poverty eradication and
Creating an institutional framework for sustainable development.
The question then arises of what Africa as a continent is entitled to or should get out of this conference. This question is as complex as are the issues of sustainable development and climate change.
If we start respectively from the definition of Sustainable Development, which is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs and that of Climate Changes, namely all variations of climatic characteristics in a given location over time; we can therefore acknowledge that the complexity of this question reside in the controversy that surrounds these two mixed concept and the treatment given to the Declaration on the Right to Development. This declaration affirms the right to development as a human right in all its dimensions and defines the principles that should govern international relations in a spirit of equality and mutual respect to ensure its full realization.
Thus, following this principle and on an economic perspective, African States should place special emphasis on the particular compensation mechanisms to mitigate the impact of Climate Change on local populations. We are thinking here of a kind of Tobin Tax* applied to the environment (commonly known as Carbon Tax).
Indeed, as the second lung of the world, Africa is entitled to demand the immediate and unconditional establishment of a Carbon Tax, which would thus give the opportunity for indigenous people and developing countries to grow sustainably and to raise the financial income that represents the destruction of fauna and flora. Establishing such a Tax can create a fund that can be used to partially solve the problem of financing that youth development is facing, among other sectors in Africa.
On a purely diplomatic perspective, the continent should not expect much advancement; if a UN Agency on Climate issues was established, it is still prudent to keep a cool head and to say that Rio+20 is just like any other gathering in taking the long march towards creating a more just and equitable world. This is justified by the failures of Copenhagen to deliver expectations; by the freeze of the Doha Round or finally the lack of adequate progress in the United Nations system reform.
This article was re-posted with permission from the Connect African Development blog
Denmark has set the most ambitious low-carbon target in the world – according to new legislation the country will generate 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.
The commitment covers its entire energy supply – encompassing electricity, heating, industry and transport.
The country’s parliament had previously committed to phasing out fossil fuels by 2050, but now has gone much further committing to cutting greenhouse gas emissions 34% on 1990 levels by 2020 and reducing energy consumption by 12% on 2006 levels.
These ambitions will now be coupled with a target of 35% renewable energy by 2020, half of which will be provided by wind. The remainder of Denmark’s renewable energy target will be realised through renewable heat, smart grid, biogas and other green technologies.
The target will require 1500 MW of offshore wind and 1800 MW of onshore wind capacity by 2020, to make up for the replacement of older turbines. A comprehensive smart grid strategy will also be adopted to enable the integration of great renewables in the grid.
The legislation also brings in incentives for large-scale power plants to switch from coal to biomass and new support for geothermal energy. Funds will also be made available to convert oil boilers for heating buildings into renewable ones, and from 2013 oil and gas boilers will be banned from new buildings.
Energy efficiency investments by industry will be subsidised under the new regime, as will the use of renewable energy in production processes.
Biogas use will also be encouraged in industrial processes, the natural gas grid and transportation, which will also be the focus of new efforts to drive the adoption of electric and hydrogen fuel vehicles.
“Denmark will once again be the global leader in the transition to green energy,” said Danish Minister for Climate, Energy and Building, Martin Lidegaard. “This will prepare us for a future with increasing prices for oil and coal. Moreover, it will create some of the jobs that we need so desperately, now and in the coming years.”
Q. Can you please introduce yourself
My name is Jess Auerbach. I’m from South Africa and lived there until pursuing postgraduate study in the United Kingdom and USA. I plan to return as soon as possible.
Q. You have done a lot of work around refugees and migration, in your opinion, how can young people who have gone through forced migration and lived as refugees be integrated back to the society?
There are many causes for forced migration, and how refugees are integrated or reintegrated depends both on what their experiences have been and whether they are going back to their country of origin or somewhere new. How long they have been away, what languages they and the relevant community speak, their age at leaving and so on are all very important factors. Because of all this, I think it’s hard to give an answer that speaks to all refugees everywhere, and therefore the most important thing to do in helping refugees resettle is to speak with them, to hear their stories and to adapt accordingly.
Q. What has been the impact of forced migration and wars on children and young people in Africa?
For many young people conflict has deprived them of ‘childhood’ as it is understood in the west, as a time of innocence and play. At the same time, the reality in most of the rest of the world is that children are capable of taking on significant responsibilities, and usually do so with incredible skill. Conflicts in Africa have meant that children have had to learn to take care of themselves and others in ways that have often deprived them of education and other opportunities – this is something that has been very difficult. Added to that is the loss of relatives, mentors and friends that has come about from war, and the impact of such losses can be enormous. Yet it has also taught young people real skills, and the challenge facing societies across Africa is how to harness these skills now.
Q. What can the International community, non-profit organisations and Governments do to prevent the outbreak of war?
That’s a big question and I will only give a short answer – there is a lot more that can and should be said. Firstly, the international community should pay attention to how trade decisions, investment and international policies are made in their respective countries, and lobby governments to act ethically, not allow the trade in arms and create equitable access to international markets. This is much more difficult than watching films like Kony2012. Kony2012 brings me to the next part of my argument, because the controversies around the film really showed how important it is for non-profits to do really good research before they decide to take on issues that other people and organizations have been working on for years. The idea that outsiders can magically ‘fix’ Africa is one that is really tiring to encounter, but it is also relentless and persistent. Africa is not ‘broken’ – rather it is part of a complex global system of agreement, disagreement and trade, and non-profits need to acknowledge the complexity of each project they work on if they are to have any success. Finally, governments – well, it depends which government and where of course, but I do think that paying real attention to the population is key – the world is changing fast and many are no longer willing to accept the status quo; this is a real challenge for many states, but it is an exciting time too, where dialogue between government and citizenry is possible in new ways.
Q. Are there any positive sides to forced migration?
Absolutely! Forced migration is usually traumatic, but if individuals are given the right kinds of support and educational opportunities, it can also be a forum for becoming cosmopolitan, learning about the world and sharing experiences between people of diverse backgrounds and nationalities. Many people acquire valuable linguistic, technical and sometimes professional skills, and these can be used both to help the country or countries in which they spend time and their country of origin. Sometimes we don’t choose what happens in our lives, but travel always widensone’s knowledge of the world .This can be extremely useful and those who possess such knowledge and experience should be admired for what they have gained, as well as supported in terms of their losses during conflict. When there are many people compelled to act, the regional and international community are also forced to pay attention, and in solving long-term political crises this can sometimes be helpful.
Q. What next after your Doctoral degree, would you be back in Africa?
Yes, I would like to come back as soon as I can. My hope is to teach at a university either in South Africa or Mozambique, but I am open to other options. At the moment I am beginning to dialogue with Brazil, which has a tremendous interest in Africa, particularly students from the former Portuguese colonies, and I hope to participate in many kinds of dialogue with them. I am excited at the idea of working with students from Africa again – it is wonderful to spend some time here in the US, but it is not my home, I want to come back.
Q. Where do you see the African Youth Panel over the next 5 years?
In 5 years time I hope the AYP will have a sustainable funding structure, a clear vision and implementation plan of what projects it will support and how, and a forum for dialogue that is accessible, inclusive and multi-lingual.