Bamboo Playspace for kids in Dhaka

By Saim Bin Mujib
Jun 5 2019 (IPS-Partners)

At a time of extreme scarcity of open space for children to play, Washpur Garden City in Bosila of Dhaka has opened up an aesthetic place completely made of bamboo for kids to have fun.

The project called Bamboo Playspace is a part of an architectural course CADSE (Critical Architecture Design and Sustainable Environment), where students from different universities took part to create it.

The space was designed and created under supervision of design and architecture studio Para to help flourish the physical and mental development of kids from the non-profit Local Education and Economic Development Organization (LEEDO). But the Bamboo Playspace is open for all children.

Moreover, the place is not only for kids’ play. There is a stage and a gallery for holding drama and other cultural activities too.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

Ecuador in Frontline to Address Climate Change

By Matilde Mordt
QUITO, Ecuador, Jun 5 2019 – As the UN commemorates World Environment Day, UNDP would like to take this opportunity to commend Ecuador’s efforts to address climate change and its commitment to raising its climate ambition.

Ecuador is at the forefront of delivering climate action, and in the frontlines of Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) design. It has gone from an Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) presented in Paris, that defined targets for only two sectors: Energy and Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use, to a revised NDC 2020-2025 which includes both mitigation and adaptation.

This ambitious NDC is one of the first registered before the UNFCCC for the 2020 round, and the first to fully use the guidelines for NDCs agreed in Katowice at the end of 2018. It has several features worth highlighting:

Firstly, it has been formulated in a way that is fully aligned with national priorities as defined in the National Development Plan. It is likewise aligned to the 2030 Agenda, contributing to numerous SDGs;

Secondly, it has been developed in a highly participatory manner, gathering more than 150 institutions from public and private sectors, academia, and civil society, including over 1,000 participants.

Matilde Mordt

It is important to note that all relevant ministries were involved in the process, including also the national disaster risk reduction system, municipal and provincial governments, to ensure a whole of government approach and coherency between interventions;

Finally, UNDP´s NDC-Support Programme developed and applied a methodology for a gender-sensitive formulation of the NDC. This not only ensured equal participation of men and women in the process, but also provided tools to identify gender gaps, and proposed solutions to reduce inequalities and ensure a fair distribution of benefits.

This is also a first for the NDCs globally, and we would like to congratulate the Government of Ecuador for embracing this approach.

Throughout the NDC preparation process, UNDP provided a platform for integrating public and private sector, academia, and civil society in discussions, and we developed and applied innovative methodologies such as design thinking to enhance the contributions of participants.

We also integrated the support of sister UN Agencies during the process; reaching out to UN Women for gender mainstreaming and to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for technical assistance on agriculture, forestry and land use.

UNDP’s vast network of experts, knowledge and resources was used to facilitate the NDC preparation, including national level projects and global programmes such as the NDC Support Programme, REDD+ and BIOFIN. This is an example of our Global Policy Network in action.

The process would not have been possible without the continuous backing of our main donors, European Union, Germany, Norway, Spain and Italy, as well as the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and Global Environment Facility (GEF).

UNDP has already been actively involved in the implementation of concrete climate actions in Ecuador for the last 20 years. Ongoing efforts will constitute building blocks for its NDC implementation going forward.

For instance, we support Ecuador to implement a combined GCF and GEF project in the forestry/REDD+ sector in the Amazon, that not only helps Ecuador comply with international climate and environmental commitments, but also supports communities – indigenous peoples and rural populations, men and women – to improve their livelihoods.

We are uniquely positioned to work in the intersection between environmental sustainability and poverty reduction, aiming precisely at leaving no one behind.

Ecuador´s NDC will now be implemented through an Action Plan, complemented with a Financial Strategy and Monitoring, Reporting and Verification system as the tracking tool. Sustained support from the international community to maintain this progress is key for allowing Ecuador to advance on this path. At UNDP we stand ready to continue supporting these efforts.

This links to the upcoming Climate Summit, to be celebrated in New York this September. We know that unprecedented efforts are required from all sectors of society to tackle the climate emergency – and we know that the task is urgent.

Ecuador has increased its level of ambition and will be pleased to continue sharing its experience and contribute to lessons learned and good practices.

We Must do More to Speed up Ending Fossil Fuel Subsidies

By Niklas Hagelberg
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 5 2019 – Fossil fuels—oil, gas, coal and their derivatives—pollute the atmosphere and emit the greenhouse gases that are ramping up global heating to dangerous levels. But did you know that governments around the world are subsidizing this pollution?

Historically, governments around the world have used fossil fuel subsidies for a variety of reasons, including to promote energy independence, encourage industry and cushion the poorest in society.

But they never took sufficient account of what economists call “externalities” such as air pollution and the resulting impacts on our health.

There is a special kind of madness in a system that funds the healthcare burden from asthma, respiratory diseases and lung cancer, and at the same time funds companies that pollute the air and contribute towards these health issues in the first place.

Niklas Hagelberg

Ordinary people pay the price three times over—taxes for healthcare, taxes to support fossil fuel subsidies, and then the ultimate price of compromises to their health.

Air pollution claims the lives of one in nine every year and is the single biggest health risk facing people across the world. Fossil fuel subsidies often fail to benefit targeted groups and are a significant drain on national budgets.

Global fossil fuel subsidies cost taxpayers about US$400 billion. Imagine if these public resources were directed to finance sustainable development, clean energy and climate action.

Fossil fuel subsidies disproportionately benefit the top oil majors, help their profit margins and serve as a powerful disincentive to develop renewable energy. They also reduce the available pot of resources for investment in renewables.

Countries that heavily subsidize these fuels of the past are stifling the current and future business and economic opportunities that renewable energy provides.

Redirecting the money used for fossil fuel subsidies has the potential to accelerate our ability to address the global climate crisis, and ensure a just decarbonization. The additional resources could also be used for other development priorities such as health, education or infrastructure.

The planet can no longer afford these subsidies. We should move to scrap them as soon as possible and make the switch to a green economy.

The energy landscape is changing quickly

The energy transition is happening now, all around us. The growth rate of renewables is three times faster than fossil and nuclear fuel, with record growth rates in solar and wind power. The United Kingdom just went 100 days on 100 per cent renewable energy sources, and no one noticed.

However, despite the rapid pace of change, the bulk of all our power for heating, lighting, cooking, transport and industry still comes from fossil fuels.

A major way to reduce air pollution, which is above World Health Organization safe levels in many cities around the world, is to switch more quickly away from fossil fuels. We should eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, except for liquefied petroleum gas cooking programmes.

UN Environment, in collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Institute for Sustainable Development Global Service Initiative, has developed a methodology to measure fossil fuel subsidies, providing comparable data to allow the tracking of national and global trends.

The report helps governments to understand the extent of the problem (for example what percentage of their Gross Domestic Product they spend on fossil fuel subsidies) and take action to reduce or abolish these subsidies.

Air pollution is the theme for World Environment Day on 5 June 2019. The quality of the air we breathe depends on the lifestyle choices we make every day. Learn more about how air pollution affects you, and what is being done to clean the air. What are you doing to reduce your emissions footprint and #BeatAirPollution?

Further resources:
Calling time on fossil fuel subsidies
Measuring Fossil Fuel Subsidies in the Context of the Sustainable Development Goals

Standing up for the clean air we deserve!

By Mahamadou Tounkara
Jun 5 2019 (IPS-Partners)

(GGGI) – Air pollution has become the number one environmental problem affecting people’s health, impacting 300 million children worldwide and contributing to the premature death of 600 thousand children every year.

Indoor air pollution from cooking on open fire using firewood or charcoal is a major problem in many developing countries. In Ethiopia, for example, biomass fuel, used by 95% of the population for cooking, is responsible for 50,320 annual deaths of children under-five year, accounting for 4.9% of the national burden of disease in Ethiopia. Acute respiratory infections are the leading cause of mortality among children in Ethiopia.

Air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to public health and 9 out of 10 people in the world breathe air containing high levels of pollutants

Air pollution has been getting worse in recent years. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to public health and 9 out of 10 people in the world breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. Traffic is a contributor to bad air quality, but another factor is “brown” electricity generation. Burning fossil fuels to generate electricity releases dangerous pollution that contributes to poor air quality and health issues. Green growth can minimize air pollution through investment in areas such as cleaner forms of energy generation and transport, better management of traffic congestion, adoption of cleaner manufacturing, agricultural and construction practices, and clean cooking.


GGGI and its work

At GGGI, we work directly with governments to tackle the growing concern of air pollution, as it has become the largest cause of premature death in many nations. GGGI has 32 Member countries and works across the thematic priorities of sustainable energy, green cities, sustainable landscapes and water and sanitation to deliver impact through six strategic outcomes which are aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition, GGGI’s 70 projects contribute to all of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.


GGGI’s country examples

GGGI’s Mexico team has developed a tool to measure and quantify health effects on transport-related air pollution and supported the government of Mexico in the creation of a governance system, involving Mexico City and five other surrounding states to help improve air quality in the central region of the country. Three-wheelers are an important form of public transport in Vientiane, Laos, but it is also the biggest source of air pollution. The three-wheeler project has been replaced by an e-bus and an e-motorbike project, as the government wants to phase out the three-wheelers. A growing number of countries are shifting its perspective to focus on basic public services that need to be more sustainable, inclusive and now, more emphasis is placed on helping to improve the quality of life for the citizens.


Photo: San Vicente, Philippines

Electric tricycles (e-trikes) have already started to roam the streets of San Vicente, Philippines. GGGI provided technical assistance to San Vicente and the implementation of e-trikes will not only mitigate the effects of climate change, but also create jobs and improve mobility of its residents, without the pollution and noise. GGGI is also working with the governments of Jordan and local and international partners and stakeholders to help the Jordan achieve its goals of reaching 14% greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2030, improving urban air quality, and catalyzing electric mobility to improve the country’s energy efficiency and reduce its dependence on oil imports.


Photo: Meeting with KP Sharma Oli, Prime Minister of Nepal


Nepal launched its National Action Plan for Electric Mobility, developed by the Government of Nepal and GGGI in 2018. GGGI’s Nepal team has been working closely with the Ministry of Forests and Environment since 2017 to advance clean, sustainable transportation and support the Government to get electric buses on the road. Peru is in the process of modernizing its vehicle fleet and eliminating the vehicles that pollute the most. GGGI’s Peru team is currently supporting the Ministry of Transport and Communications in the design of its freight vehicle scrapping program.


Air pollution in Asia

In the last few decades, there has been incredible economic growth in Asia, during which the environment took a back seat, but now people are confronting air pollution and other impacts and so the mindset is changing. In the Republic of Korea, the Moon Jae-in government has changed its perspective on energy policy and has increased its renewable energy target from 4% to 20% and this has led to a lot of societal discussion in the Republic of Korea. The United Kingdom started such a discussion 10 years ago, when it had close to 50% of its energy coming from coal but in 10 years it has gone down to almost zero. People were worried about energy security but now wind energy has become cheaper than coal and building wind turbines has generated a lot of jobs. A rapid transition took place in 10 years.

In Asia, the primary driver for green or clean tech may not be climate change but air pollution, which causes asthma and kills people all over Asia. Beijing had more blue skies this year than in previous years, as coal mines have been closed and more electric buses are on the roads. China has become a leader in certain areas of clean technology and is commercially exploiting these opportunities, for example in constructing solar panels. In Europe, wind energy provides a thriving industry and many commercial opportunities. Japan is pushing for a hydrogen economy, and various countries are finding out that these could bring a new generation of prosperity

At the opening ceremony of the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) in Beijing, President Xi Jinping gave a remarkable speech on China’s commitment to multilateralism, opening up the country’s economy, breaking down subsidies and tariffs, and promoting high quality green development in the interest of peace and prosperity across the world. At GGGI we are exploring how that commitment can translate in acceleration of renewable energy uptake in developing countries, using Chinese expertise and technology.

Air pollution is virtually everywhere in Asia in the big cities because of transport, coal-fired power plants and industry. Even in less-developed rural areas where you don’t expect the level to be as high. Eighty percent of people in Cambodia are still cooking food on an open fire and using coal for heating and as a result, indoor air pollution is a huge problem for them. Pollution is the largest cause of premature death now, even more than smoking. It is something that worries us a lot and plays a large part in green growth.

Air pollution is the second-largest cause of premature deaths for children in Mongolia. But there is also cause for alarm in countries where it is not as clearly visible and people are not so aware of the problem. Inefficient energy use in households, industry, agriculture and transport sectors, and coal-fired power plants were the major sources attributed to outdoor air pollution, while the lack of access to clean cooking fuels and technologies contributed most to indoor pollution. The latter puts women and children as the biggest group at risk. As a result, two-thirds of Southeast Asian cities saw a five percent growth in air pollution between 2008 and 2013 according to a WHO report in 2016. However, the report noted that more governments were increasing their commitments to reduce air pollution.

Small individual decisions such as walking, using bicycles, opting for public transport or sharing car trips have significant impact, and go hand in hand with ambitious public policy decisions. The world needs to take action and commitment to get the clean air we want to breathe in our bicentennial.


Mahamadou Tounkara, Director, Strategy, Partnerships and Communications, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI)

Mobilisation Needed for Climate-Related Disasters

In 2011 Somalia also experienced severe drought and many were forced to leave their homes and make the long journey to an aid camp in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Credit: Abdurrahman Warsameh/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 5 2019 – Climate-related displacement and food insecurity is not a future possibility, but it is already happening and it’s only projected to worsen without urgent action in coming years.

Yesterday, ahead of World Environment Day, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) sounded the alarm on the growing impacts of drought in Somalia.

“UNHCR and humanitarian partners fear that severe climatic conditions combined with armed conflict and protracted displacement could push the country into a far bigger humanitarian emergency,” said UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch.

As a result of below average rains and a worsening drought, an estimated 5.4 million people are likely to be food insecure by September in many parts of the Horn of Africa nation. Of those, over two million will be in severe conditions and in need of immediate emergency assistance.

The drought has also forced nearly 50,000 people to flee their homes in search of food, water, and aid. More than 7,000 were displaced last month alone.

“People who are already displaced because of conflict and violence are also affected by the drought, at times disproportionally,” Baloch added.

The latest crisis is occurring at the wake of a two-year drought that ended in 2017, which displaced over one million.

According to UNHCR, weather-related hazards such as storms, droughts, and wildfires displaced 16.1 million people in 2018.

Climate-related crises are only expected to occur with greater frequency across the world.

In a new, terrifying report, Australian think tank Breakthrough National Center for Climate Restoration warned that climate change poses a “new-to-mid-term existential threat to human civilisation.”

“This policy paper looks at…the unvarnished truth about the desperate situation humans, and our planet, are in, painting a disturbing picture of the real possibility that human life on earth may be on the way to extinction, in the most horrible way,” said Admiral Chris Barrie in the foreword.

The assessment warns that the world’s currently on its way to least 3° Celsius of global warming and projects that by 2050, one billion people in regions such as the Middle East and West Africa will have to relocate due to unliveable climate conditions.

There will also be severe decreases in water availability and a collapse in agriculture and food production.

“The scale of destruction is beyond our capacity to model with a high likelihood of human civilisation coming to an end,” the report states, noting that such climate impacts will accelerate conflict and instability.

But not all hope is lost.

The report urges governments to have strong leadership and mobilise resources “akin in scale to the World War II emergency mobilisation” in order to quickly build a zero-emissions industrial system.

“A doomsday future is not inevitable! But without immediate drastic action our prospects are poor. We must act collectively,” said Barrie.

UNHCR similarly called on more international action to prevent climate-related disasters, increase efforts to strengthen resilience, and protect those already affected by climate change.

Last month, aid agencies launched a 710-million-dollar appeal in response to the drought in Somalia. Only 20 percent has so far been funded.

“With climate change amplifying the frequency and intensity of sudden disasters, such as hurricanes, floods and tornados, and contributing to more gradual environmental phenomena, such as drought and rising sea levels, it is expected to drive even more displacement in the future,” Baloch said.