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Africa/Global: Climate Change Roundup

AfricaFocus Bulletin
August 3, 2015 (150803)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

Coal is the most damaging of fossil fuels, both for human health and for the planet. Although it still dominates in some countries, including South Africa, the case against coal is rapidly gaining ground around the world. On business grounds as well, coal is losing its competitive advantage. 2015, many are suggesting, may be the beginning of the end for coal.

President Obama's just released Clean Power Plan, if implemented, will accelerate the rate of closure of coal plants in the United States. Even the world's largest producer of coal, China, is reducing its coal imports and has started to curb its overwhelming dependence on coal for industrial growth.

Yet these efforts, and the sum of commitments on reducing carbon emissions made by countries before the Paris climate change summit this December, still fall short of that needed to protect the planet as well as the health of those affected by air pollution.

Just released on web: "Must-watch" 1/2 hour video from GroundWork (South Africa) and Friends of the Earth. "The Bliss of Ignorance" - on damage to health and environment from South Africa's addiction to coal. View at https://vimeo.com/111593436

This AfricaFocus contains a roundup of AfricaFocus Bulletins over the last year on climate change and the environment, covering a range of topics related to this issue, including the divestment movement, progress in renewable energy, the still enormous gap between international rhetoric and action in both financing and action to stem climate justice, and the disproportionate effects of failure to act on Africa in particular.

For more on "The End of Coal?," see the Storify compilation of links by AfricaFocus Bulletin: https://storify.com/wminter/the-end-of-coal

Other recent articles of interest:

"Fact Sheet: President Obama to Announce Historic Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants," White House, August 3, 2015
http://tinyurl.com/nzjl5qh

Washington Post, August 2, 2015 - summary preview of Obama Clean Power Plan, including limits on coal emissions
http://tinyurl.com/nmggmuw

Munyaradzi Makoni, "One Tune, Different Hymns – Tackling Climate Change in South Africa," Inter Press Service, August 2, 2015
http://tinyurl.com/o8oxt2a

"Can technology free developing countries from light poverty?," The Guardian, July 30, 2015
http://tinyurl.com/oj3ybw7

Kofi Annan on CNN: "Africa does little to pollute our world, but will pay the highest price," Augusst 3, 2015
http://tinyurl.com/ng3h8bj

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Announcement

AfricaFocus Bulletin publication break. Publication will resume in early September. Website, Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/AfricaFocus), and other social media will continue to be updated occasionally during the break.

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AfricaFocus Bulletin: Climate Change and the Environment

For updated page visit http://www.africafocus.org/intro-env.php.

Talking Points

  • Global warming and environmental damage from the fossil-fuel industry already affect all of us, although responsibility lies primarily with the rich industrialized countries and the newly industrializing powers. Africa is the most vulnerable continent, but extreme weather and sea-level rise have hit New Orleans and New Jersey as well as Lagos.
  • When industries make decisions based on short-term profits, encouraged by government subsidies to established industries, they systematically discount damages from "externalities." Visible results include the devastation of oil-producing areas in the Niger Delta and of coal-producing areas, whether in South Africa or West Virginia. The longer-term consequences in rising temperatures and more extreme weather will be even more devastating.
  • Action to combat climate change depends in part on decisions made in international conferences, where the primary obstacles to action are the rich countries and the newly industrializing powers. But efforts at many other levels are also of decisive importance. Fossil-fuel divestment campaigns, as they grow and multiply, can affect investment choices. So can technological innovation. Notably, clean energy can already be more cost-effective than large-scale fossil fuel plants in supplying distributed energy access to Africa.

Bulletins on climate change and the environment

August 2014 - July 2015

July 6, 2015 Africa/Global: People's Test on Climate
http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/clim1507.php

With less than six months before this year's UN Climate Change conference in Paris, it is clear that commitments by governments to action on climate change will fall short of that necessary to keep global warming under the internationally agreed target of 2 degrees Celsius, despite recent new pledges by the United States, Brazil, and China (http://tinyurl.com/qhtfdk9; http://tinyurl.com/q8g3srl). But, beyond national governments, there are signs of growing momentum for more rapid "transformational" action. Particularly notable is the recognition that such action must simultaneously address economic inequality and development as well as the natural environment.

May 18, 2015 Africa/Global: Decarbonizing Development?
http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/wb1505.php

Decarbonizing Development, a new report from the World Bank, lays out a target of "zero carbon future" by the end of the century. The target year goal is the most conservative of the options laid out for negotiations in the climate summit in Paris in December. Such a long transition can rightly be criticized by climate activists and scientists as falling far short, as can the Bank's own record of continued support for fossil fuels implicitly faulted in this report.

May 5, 2015 Africa/Global: Renewables Gaining Ground
http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/ren1505.php

"A key feature of 2014 was the continuing spread of renewable energy to new markets. Investment in developing countries, at $131.3 billion, was up 36% on the previous year and came the closest ever to overhauling the total for developed economies, at $138.9 billion, up just 3% on the year. Indonesia, Chile, Mexico, Kenya, South Africa and Turkey were all in the billion-dollar-plus club in 2014 in terms of investment in renewables." - UNEP / Bloomberg New Energy Finance

March 30, 2015 South Africa: Energy Futures Contested
http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/sa1503.php

The energy crisis in South Africa, with regular "load-shedding" due to shortages of power from the monopoly utility Eskom, is now at the top of the political agenda, featuring in President Jacob Zuma's State of the Nation Address in February and in ongoing disputes about who is responsible and when the situation can be fixed. The long-term strategy to exit the crisis and begin a transition to a sustainable energy system is also marked by strong disagreements between utility and government officials and their critics.

March 10, 2015 Africa/Global: Falling Short on Climate Finance
http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/clim1503.php

Africa, the continent with warming deviating most rapidly from "normal" conditions, could see climate change adaptation costs rise to US$50 billion per year by 2050, even assuming international efforts keep global warming below 2 degrees C this century, according to a new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

March 3, 2015 East Africa: Water, Wind, and Lake Turkana
http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/turk1503.php

Lake Turkana, in the far northwest of Kenya and extending over the border into Ethiopia, is the world's largest desert lake, in a region that is central to archaeological investigation into the origin of humanity. It is now also central to two different projects for expanding renewable energy due to come on-line in the next three years, one based on hydropower and the other on wind. While both will significantly expand the input to the East African power grid, critics charge that expansion of hydropower on Ethiopia's Omo River also poses serious threats to the livelihood of local people both around Lake Turkana and upstream along the Omo River.

February 11, 2015 Africa/Global: Archbishop Tutu on Fossil-Fuel Divestment
http://www.africafocus.org/docs15/clim1502.php

"The destruction of the earth's environment is the human rights challenge of our time. ... The most devastating effects are visited on the poor, those with no involvement in creating the problem. A deep injustice. Just as we argued in the 1980s that those who conducted business with apartheid South Africa were aiding and abetting an immoral system, today we say nobody should profit from the rising temperatures, seas and human suffering caused by the burning of fossil fuels." Archbishop Desmond Tutu

December 15, 2014 Africa/Global: Postponing Climate Decisions
http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/clim1412.php

"It was not hard for me to make the connection between the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, and the catalyst for my work to stop the climate crisis. ... In the wake of the climate disaster that was Hurricane Katrina almost ten years ago, I saw the same images of police, pointing war-zone weapons at unarmed black people with their hands in the air. ... When crisis hits, the underlying racism in our society comes to the surface in very clear ways." - Deirdre Smith, 350.org, August 20, 2014

November 11, 2014 Africa/Global: Fossil-Fuel Divestment Growing
http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/cc1411b.php

The latest international scientific statement on the disastrous and potentially irreversible damage from climate change is unambiguous, as is the imperative for drastic action to curb greenhouse gas emissions. But political obstacles to moving from rhetoric to action are virtually unchanged, despite massive demonstrations coinciding with the UN climate summit in late September. The dispersed fossilfuel divestment movement, however, although still too small to curb the industry, is growing rapidly.

November 11, 2014 Africa/Global: Climate Change Summary Report
http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/cc1411a.php

"The world's top scientists and governments have issued their bluntest plea yet to the world: Slash carbon pollution now (at a very low cost) or risk 'severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.' Scientists have 'high confidence' these devastating impacts occur 'even with adaptation' -- if we keep doing little or nothing." - Joe Romm, Editor, Climate Progress

September 22, 2014 Africa: Climate Action & Economic Growth
http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/clim1409.php

It is still conventional wisdom to pit action to curb climate change against economic growth. But the evidence is rapidly accumulating that this is a false dilemma, buttressed by vested interests in the fossil fuel industry and a simplistic concept of economic growth. According to a report just released by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, falling prices for renewable energy and careful analysis of both costs and benefits of low-carbon vs. high-carbon investment strategies point to a clear conclusion: saving the planet and saving the economy go hand in hand.

August 18, 2014 Africa: From Kerosene to Solar
http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/sol1408.php

The largest marketer of solar lamps in Africa, which recently passed the one million mark in lamps sold, has set an ambitious target for the industry. "Our mission is to eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by the end of this decade," proclaims Solar Aid. Although achieving this goal would require the pico-solar market to emulate mobile phone industry's exponential growth path, it may not be as utopian as it sounds. According to market research company Navigant Research, "Off-grid solar lighting for base of the pyramid (BOP) markets, the leading solar PV consumer product segment, is transitioning from a humanitarian aspiration to big business."


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin, or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org


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