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Green Planet

The Dutch role model of change

Dr. Wolfram Kalt

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How true leadership in regards of climate change may give outstanding impact to the Asian world

The Netherlands and Indonesia share a special relationship as they were connected for centuries in times of colonialism, separated after the horrible years of Indonesian struggle for independence and later then they have found together again into a respectful and close relation based on strong pillars of common history and development, intense economic and political ties, and so many deep interpersonal relationships among the two countries.

For me living in Bandung, the former Paris van Jawa, a modern Indonesian metropole where the government of West Java is located, it is always surprising to see the respect Indonesian people have towards European countries and the Netherlands in specific. It is maybe part of the open and friendly culture among its citizens in general but maybe also part of a quite realistic view that such huge country can be developed only with ongoing support and expertise from outside.

In regards of industry this support interestingly comes more and more from the North East Asia, from Korea, Japan and from China, while western countries are loosing ground. USA is successfully managing its moral and economic outsider position under its current administration, and Europe is in view of its unity weak, it still gives a diversified picture of small nations on their own who all act via isolated representations in Indonesia.

In the eyes of Indonesia, however, Europe is strong in three areas: democracy, technology and the environment. While the first may be a source for many fascinating articles and books, I would like to focus on the other ones – and here especially on the different meaning and understanding of the environment in the context of a highly industrialized economic conglomerate and a developing nation – to support a changing leadership perspective and vision of one European role model which may guide both continents hopefully soon in future.

We speak about the fact that the Netherlands – based on a broad political consensus – are on the way to implement the toughest climate law in the world.

WOOW, this is great, isn’t it! But … is this really needed?

This may be the main question in a controversial global (not only European!) discussion and an ambivalent public opinion process where everybody, and here I mean really everybody seems to have an expert position with strong believes fed by certain sources of doubtful information. I rarely experienced so many bull shit info told to me even by good friends than in this field of changing climate and its impact on humans, our living conditions and life itself.

Lets make clear at this point that there is no doubt about science, all findings which indicate that we are growing to fast, that we are consuming the resources of the planet too fast and that we are polluting and destroying our own basis of existence with a speed and degree of complexity which makes it difficult to interfere.

The Paris Agreement 2015 was a miracle in a mostly confused and disoriented world, a light moment of mankind when under the guidance of the United Nations a milestone agreement regulating global greenhouse gas emissions with impact on Climate Change was negotiated, ratified and adopted by consensus of 196 state parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, in December 2015.

Even the US declared its intention to withdraw in meantime in June 2017, the fact that such an agreement was declared and committed by so many countries proves that there is something ongoing, huge and beyond our imagination.

We are losing control over the planet, a disturbing and frightening reality which does not affect all in the same way at the same time. Those who created the miserable situation, mostly the industrial nations of the west built their wealth on the foundation of a global disaster which is coming closer. “Wealthier people produce more carbon pollution – even the green ones” was a great article straight to the point by David Roberts in December 2017. So its not about left or right, its about the rich and the poor and in a wider sense about fairness of distribution. This fairness is very unfair when it comes to the consequences of climate change which mostly hits the poor ones around the world. Even in Asia and here in Indonesia in specific a new middle to high income population is forming which – unaware of the unlucky spiral of economy and consumption – transfers and copies same patterns of inequality into the nation. While those who become wealthy are flexible and can move and enter a better life, those who live a the limit to poverty have to bear the consequences.

“We are doomed” is the logic consequence of scientists and thinkers like Mayer Hillman or David Wallace-Wells.All not that worse will be the answers of those who benefit from sucking the resources and living in a quite safe harbor. Maybe there will be a better wine in Belgium [beside a soccer semifinalist title…

People in my home in central Europe really don’t care that much about global warming, yes there are more heavy thunderstorms visible, but we can insure and our real problems indeed are refugees who want to enter our country. That this is increasingly a consequence of Climate change people are unaware or not really interested in. National politics serve theme, but also catalyzes the problems as they promote their industries only and by doing so they ignore climate change as a crucial political issue created by themselves. Climate change induced migration is – sorry to say – a more or less a welcome argument of fear to be voted again.

No wonder that implementation of national climate actions plans to mitigate global warming lack behind and will end up in a story of delays and excuses soon. Even warming of 2C will be ‘substantially’ more harmful than 1.5C as per a draft UN report  national action plans will be by far too slow.

Its’ a matter of psychology that people and politicians don’t care enough at the moment. As Kate Stein points out in a recent interview with researcher Galen Treuer from University of Connecticut “It’s Human Nature Not To Think About Rising Seas”.

As long as we don’t have a personal threat people have other issues that are very important: affordable housing or Transportation for example. Those are the things that seem to motivate more than the consequences of an impact which may come.

In such situation of excuse and delayed industry serving implementation of measures it is outstanding noticeable to look at the ambitious role model of Netherlands. Maybe people in the Netherlands are feeling the increasing sea levels more than others, or whatever, they are guiding the show, and even the country is not participating in recent soccer world championship, they show an outstanding championship behavior we all can learn from. The Oranjes guide necessary developments and ways into a better future. Whether their positioning and action will be enough I don’t know.

Just a side remark: 18 years ago I learned about the importance of a role model when I argued (for first time in history) an Austrian company towards an European winner enterprise for sustainable technologies. A great success but what I received in between is, that this may be not enough! We need to understand the relevance of local frameworks in Europe when we look to Asia. While discussing the relevance of emissions of 20 or 50 cars with running motors from the chimney of a factory in clean Europe we got stuck in daily traffic jams of big cities like Jakarta with million of cars standing around and emitting CO2 in useless non operation mode every day. As we have the same heaven we share the consequences of effort same as of standstill.

The role model of the Netherlands inspires and gives hope but finally its the leadership learning of all of us (in Europe and Asia) which will make the difference. Do we recognize the urgency for our society to act and maintain the life foundations of next generations?

Even national developments are somewhat disillusioning at the moment I strongly believe into such a role model like offered from the Netherlands. It is guiding leaders in Europe and in Asia to spearhead a more sustainable development, ton take action on our future. True leaders foresee it, they address issues early and they work out plans to counteract. On this stage wise countries like Indonesia also have to enforce positive leadership and international cooperation. The West-East relationship between Netherlands, the European Union and Indonesia may become a recognized shiny example on this important way forward.

Long-serving CEO of one of the largest viscose facilities of the southern hemisphere, visionary green-economy practitioner and entrepreneurial guru. Independent strategy advisor for business and institutions with 20+ year of excellence in industrial enterprise build up and transformation of emission intensive industry towards sustainability leadership in Europe and Asia.

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Green Planet

India advances ground-breaking plan to keep planet and people cool

MD Staff

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India’s new comprehensive Cooling Action Plan targets an increase in sustainable cooling for the good of its population, while helping to fight climate change

Four years after temperatures hit the high forties in India, claiming over 2,000 lives, parts of the country are again baking in intense, and deadly, heatwaves. Throughout April and into May, the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have seen daily highs of 42°C.

As climate change increases, such temperatures are becoming the new normal. Combined with economic growth and urbanization, this brings a huge growth in cooling demand. The number of air conditioners in India is expected to rise from 15 million in 2011 to 240 million in 2030.

Cooling isn’t just about protecting against extreme temperatures. A recent study from the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative puts India in the top nine countries at greatest risk from lack of access to cooling technology that also keeps food fresh, vaccines stable and children in education.

To give just a few examples, a quarter of vaccines in India arrive damaged because of broken or inefficient cold chains, while only four per cent of fresh produce is transported in refrigerated vehicles, leading to economic losses of US$4.5 billion annually.

Aware of these worrying statistics, the government launched earlier this year the India Cooling Action Plan, the first such holistic plan from any national government.

“Cooling is a developmental need, yet India has one of the lowest levels of access in the world,” says CK Mishra, Secretary at the Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change. “To support economic growth and improve resilience, it is inevitable that India will embrace cooling.

“By accelerating and integrating policies, regulations, workforce training and research and development, this plan mobilizes government, industry and society to ensure thermal comfort for all while keeping to our international environmental commitments and not burdening ourselves with inefficient, expensive infrastructure and an overstretched power grid.

“The plan recognizes the significant role of accelerated action on building and appliance efficiency, and the economic and environmental benefits of new technologies such as thermal storage and district cooling.”

Energy efficiency a key approach

By 2038, the plan aims to reduce cooling demand by up to 25 per cent, refrigerant demand by 25–30 per cent and cooling energy requirements by up to 40 per cent. It aims to double farmers’ incomes by improving the cold chain and so wasting less food.

These are big goals, but experts believe India’s plan is sensible and achievable.

“Living in India you quickly understand the importance of keeping cool for your health and day-to-day functioning,” says Benjamin Hickman, a UN Environment technical advisor based in India. “This plan acknowledges head-on that Indian cooling demand will grow eightfold in 20 years and recommends a myriad of cross-cutting solutions that urgently need to be implemented and scaled up.”

Crucially, the plan also aligns India’s cooling growth with the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. This international agreement obliges nations to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)—refrigerants that are thousands of times more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide.

Globally, the agreement can deliver up to 0.4°C of avoided warming by the end of this century just by phasing out hydrofluorocarbons. Simultaneously improving the energy efficiency of cooling equipment could double the benefits. According to a study by the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, such energy efficiency improvements can benefit India. If the average room air conditioner efficiency improves by six per cent per year, more than 64 TWh per year of energy could be saved by 2030. This would cut greenhouse gas emissions, protect cities’ power infrastructure from overload, and bring cumulative consumer benefits of up to US$25 billion.

Prioritizing new cooling solutions

The plan doesn’t just look at efficiency. It prioritizes other solutions, such as passive cooling, building design, fans and coolers, new technologies and behavioural change. Among the new technologies is district cooling—the distribution of cooling energy from a central plant to multiple buildings.

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change is co-chair of the UN Environment-led District Energy in Cities Initiative, which is working with three pilot cities—Amaravati, Rajkot and Thane – in India to demonstrate these technologies. Three quarters of the buildings required for 2030 have yet to be built, so there is a huge opportunity for new urban developments to use district cooling, which can be up to 50 per cent more efficient than stand-alone solutions.

“UN Environment praises India’s leadership in being the first country to adopt a comprehensive plan for the cooling sector,” says Atul Bagai, Head of UN Environment’s India Country Office. “Singling cooling out is vital to scaling up and targeting action on what has for years been a silently growing environmental catastrophe, and India’s Cooling Action Plan should set the benchmark for other countries to follow. UN Environment stands ready to support India to achieve and surpass its targets.”

Last month, UN Environment, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program, and Sustainable Energy for All launched the Cool Coalition. The coalition is a unified front that links action across the Kigali Amendment, Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals. It will inspire ambition, identify solutions and mobilize action to accelerate progress towards clean and efficient cooling.

These kinds of actions provide hope that we can help keep everyone, and the planet, cool.

UN Environment

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Green Planet

Just One-Third of the World’s Longest Rivers Remain Free-Flowing

MD Staff

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Just over one-third (37%) of the world’s 246 longest rivers remain free-flowing, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Nature. Dams and reservoirs are drastically reducing the diverse benefits that healthy rivers provide to people and nature across the globe.

A team of 34 international researchers from McGill University, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and other institutions [1] assessed the connectivity status of 12 million kilometers (~7.5 million miles) of rivers worldwide, providing the first ever global assessment of the location and extent of the planet’s remaining free-flowing rivers. [2]

Among other findings, the researchers determined only 21 of the world’s 91 rivers longer than 1,000 km (~600 miles) that originally flowed to the ocean still retain a direct connection from source to sea. The planet’s remaining free-flowing rivers are largely restricted to remote regions of the Arctic, the Amazon Basin, and the Congo Basin.

“The world’s rivers form an intricate network with vital links to land, groundwater, and the atmosphere,’’ said lead author Günther Grill of McGill’s Department of Geography. ‘’Free-flowing rivers are important for humans and the environment alike, yet economic development around the world is making them increasingly rare. Using satellite imagery and other data, our study examines the extent of these rivers in more detail than ever before.”

Dams and reservoirs are the leading contributors to connectivity loss in global rivers. The study estimates there are around 60,000 large dams worldwide, and more than 3,700 hydropower dams are currently planned or under construction. They are often planned and built at the individual project level, making it difficult to assess their real impacts across an entire basin or region.

“Rivers are the lifeblood of our planet,” said Michele Thieme, lead freshwater scientist at WWF and global leader of WWF’s free-flowing rivers initiative. “They provide diverse benefits that are often overlooked and undervalued. This first-ever map of the world’s remaining free-flowing rivers will help decision makers prioritize and protect the full value rivers give to people and nature.”

Healthy rivers support freshwater fish stocks that improve food security for hundreds of millions of people, deliver sediment that keeps deltas above rising seas, mitigate the impact of extreme floods and droughts, prevent loss of infrastructure and fields to erosion, and support a wealth of biodiversity. Disrupting rivers’ connectivity often diminishes or even eliminates these critical ecosystem services.

Protecting remaining free-flowing rivers is also crucial to saving biodiversity in freshwater systems. Recent analysis of 16,704 populations of wildlife globally showed that populations of freshwater species experienced the most pronounced decline of all vertebrates over the past half-century, falling on average 83 percent since 1970.

The study also notes that climate change will further threaten the health of rivers worldwide. Rising temperatures are already impacting flow patterns, water quality, and biodiversity. Meanwhile, as countries around the world shift to low-carbon economies, hydropower planning and development is accelerating, adding urgency to the need to develop energy systems that minimize overall environmental and social impact.

“Renewable energy is like a recipe – you have to find the right mix of ingredients to have both a sustainable energy grid and a thriving natural world,” said Thieme. “While hydropower inevitably has a role to play in the renewable energy landscape, well-planned wind and solar energy can be more viable options for rivers and the communities, cities, and biodiversity that rely on them.”

The international community is committed to protect and restore rivers under Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, which requires countries to track the extent and condition of water-related ecosystems. This study delivers methods and data necessary for countries to maintain and restore free-flowing rivers around the world.

Visit freeflowingrivers.org for more information on free-flowing rivers and an interactive map of the world’s rivers.

[1] Contributing Institutions:

McGill University, WWF-US, WWF-NL, WWF-UK, WWF-Mediterranean, WWF-India, University of Basel, Joint Research Centre (JRC), WWF-China, WWF-Canada, WWF-Zambia, WWF Greater Mekong Programme, The Nature Conservancy, University of Nevada, WWF-Malaysia, IHE Delft, WWF- Germany and HTWG Konstanz, King’s College London, Umeå University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, University of Washington, Harvard University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Conservation International , WWF-Mexico, WWF International, Stanford University, Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Freie Universität Berlin, WWF-Brazil, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen.

[2]  First ever science-based definition of a free-flowing river:

Rivers where ecosystem functions and services are largely unaffected by changes to fluvial connectivity allowing an unobstructed exchange of water, material, species, and energy within the river system and with surrounding landscapes.

WWF

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5 things you need to know about forests and the UN

MD Staff

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Forests are vitally important for sustaining life on Earth, and play a major role in the fight against climate change. With the 2019 session of the United Nations Forum on Forests wrapping up on Friday in New York, we delve deeper into the subject, and find out what the UN is doing to safeguard and protect them.

Forests are the most cost-effective way to fight climate change

Arguably, protection and enhancing the world’s forests is one of the most cost-effective forms of climate action: forests act as carbon sinks, absorbing roughly 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.  Sustainable forest management can build resilience and help mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Speaking at the 2018 UN climate conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, Liu Zhemin, head of the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), said that “forests are central in developing solutions both to mitigate and adapt to climate change, adding that “these terrestrial ecosystems have already removed nearly one third of human-produced carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere. Through sustainable forest management, they could remove much more.”

At this week’s meeting session of the UNFF, it was noted that forest-based climate change mitigation and adaptation actions, if fully implemented, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 15 gigatonnes of CO2 a year by 2050, which could potentially be enough to limit warming to well below 2°C (the target set by the international community in 2015). Today, fossil fuels emit 36 gigatonnes every year.

In addition, as renewable sources increasingly replace fossil fuels, forests will become more and more important as sources of energy: already, forests supply about 40 per cent of global renewable energy in the form of wood fuel – as much as solar, hydroelectric and wind power combined.

The goal of zero deforestation is close to being reached

Significant progress has been made in international forest protection over the past 25 years. The rate of net global deforestation has slowed by more than 50 per cent, a credit to global efforts to sustainably manage existing forests, while at the same time engaging in ambitious measures to restore degraded forests and land, and to plant more trees to meet the demand for forest products and services. 

The goal of zero net global deforestation is close to being reached, bringing the world one step closer to the UN Strategic Plan for Forest’s target to expand global forest area by 3 per cent by 2030, an area of 120 million hectares, about the size of South Africa.

The biggest threat to forests is…agriculture

Many people will be aware of the devastating effects that illegal and unsustainable logging has on forests, but the biggest global driver of deforestation is actually agriculture, because of the extent to which forests are converted to farmland and livestock grazing land: a key challenge is how to manage the ongoing increase in agricultural production, and improve food security, without reducing overall forest areas.

A major UN report on biodiversity, released in May, made headlines around the world with its headline figure of one million species at risk of extinction, warned against the destruction of forests, noting that this “will likely have negative impacts on biodiversity and can threaten food and water security as well as local livelihoods, including by intensifying social conflict.”

The UN’s growing role in forest protection

The first time forests came to the forefront of the international agenda was at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, widely regarded as one of the landmark UN conferences. The Summit led to the adoption of Agenda 21, the first significant international action plan for achieving sustainable development, which noted the “major weaknesses in the policies, methods and mechanisms adopted to support and develop the multiple ecological, economic, social and cultural roles of trees, forests and forest lands.”

The Earth Summit also saw the adoption of the Forest Principles which, although non-legally binding, was the first global consensus reached on the sustainable management of forests. The Principles called for all countries to make efforts towards reforestation and forest conservation; enshrined the right of nations to develop forests in keeping with national sustainable development policies; and called for financial resources to be provided for targeted economic policies.

To better co-ordinate international efforts to put the principles into practice, an inter-governmental panel and forum were set up in the 1990s, to be replaced in 2000 by the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF), which meets every year at UN Headquarters in New York to monitor progress on the implementation of the six Global Forest Goals.

The Goals set targets for the sustainable management of forests, and reduction of deforestation and forest degradation, and were developed as part the forest community’s response to the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN’s overall blueprint for economic progress that protects the environment and humanity.

This year’s top priorities: climate change and the real cost of deforestation

One of the key take-aways from the 2019 session of the UN Forest Forum was that, too often, forests are under-valued, because it’s hard to put a clear monetary value on all of the positive contributions they make to the world.

As a result, the true cost of deforestation and forest degradation is not taken into account when policy decisions are made on land use, such as decisions to clear forest land to use for commercial agriculture. 

The importance of financing was another important element of the session:  sufficient funding is an essential element in ensuring effective action to halt deforestation and forest degradation, promote greater sustainable forest management and increase the world’s forest area: despite the central role forests play in protecting the environment, only 2 per cent of funds available for climate change mitigation are available for efforts to reduce deforestation.

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