By Chandran Nair, Global Institute for Tomorrow
In April this year, Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, burned over 105 tonnes of elephant ivory to protest the continued poaching of elephants. The Associated Press quoted President Kenyatta as saying that “…for us ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants.”
At the same time, he hosted the “Giants Club” Summit, a meeting of African leaders to bolster the protection of elephants. The ivory burn — the largest in history — is a reminder that conservation is not just the purview of activists in the West, but also something that is dear to the hearts of many governments and people in the developing world. It should also be noted that some African commentators have been critical of this action arguing that in the final analysis it still panders to Western arguments about how to put an end to poaching. Read more
There is no bigger or costlier mismatch between science and economics than on climate change. Scientists have for years seen environmental degradation and the resulting global warming as the biggest known threat to economic well-being. Yet economists have not integrated climate change and the environment in growth accounting that underpins welfare economics, nor recognized that the carbon intensity of economic activities is a roadblock to sustaining economic growth.
This neglect has grave consequences for sustaining prosperity, the agreements at the Paris climate summit notwithstanding. Indeed, progress will be severely compromised unless economists build in low-carbon measures in the policies and investments they routinely promote around the world. Even if belatedly, the economics profession must act. Read more
The devastating floods in India’s southern state of Chennai, and now yet another deadly typhoon (Melor) bringing massive flooding in central Philippines, point to a rising frequency of climate-related disasters. For an effective response to these increasingly costly events, we can no longer regard them as one-off acts of nature. They are part of an emerging pattern shaped by human activity, in two ways. Globally, climate change is making countries far more hazard-prone; locally, environmental destruction is adding to the fall out.
Rising population densities mean that more people are locating in flood-prone areas. Unregulated urbanisation and inadequate drainage and flood protection are exacerbating people’s vulnerability. Read more
When life is already a struggle, a sudden shock can have a devastating impact. Families and communities can find themselves pulled in a downward spiral from which it may be impossible to escape.
Storms, droughts and floods are often not the reason why millions in Africa and many other regions are in poverty. But it can be the final blow which kills off their opportunity to make a better life for their families. Read more
How times change. President Xi Jinping has just become the first Chinese president to attend a climate change conference. His presence in Paris could hardly have been more symbolic of the dramatic shift underway in China, under its New Normal economic policy. After all, it was only six years ago, at the Copenhagen Climate conference, that China’s then premier Wen Jiabao single-handedly wrecked any chance of agreement.
What has caused this dramatic policy turnaround in the world’s second largest economy? One factor is clearly Xi’s oft-stated belief that today’s levels of pollution – and of corruption – represent an existential threat to continued Communist Party rule. Read more
By Chandran Nair, Global Institute for Tomorrow
Last week, Jack Ma called for a new “e-WTO” with the aim of helping small businesses get on the Internet, as the best hope in the fight against poverty. This appeal came after Alibaba’s largest ever “Singles Day” a week earlier, with almost US$14.3bn of merchandise sold in 24 hours. Alibaba’s social media accounts even reported that Premier Li Keqiang called CEO Jack Ma to wish him a successful day. “Singles Day” is now the world’s largest shopping day, dwarfing even the United States’ “Black Friday.”
These are the latest manifestations of a worrying obsession with e-commerce and the Internet in Asia’s largest economies. In March, Beijing announced its new “Internet Plus” plan to expand Internet connectivity. Premier Li, when describing it, brought up the “mobile Internet”, “cloud computing”, “big data”, “intelligent manufacturing” and the “Internet of Things,” in a manner similar to business leaders in America. Nor is this digital obsession restricted to China. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s headquarters received as much, if not more, media attention as his address on sustainable development to the United Nations days earlier. Read more
When Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi (pictured) won the Nobel Peace Prize last month it was a moment of great pride for civil society in India, not least because of a recent face-off between the new government and NGOs, especially the environmental group Greenpeace.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power this year on a pledge to cut red tape and speed up decision making, winning favour with industrialists across the country. But many campaigners are more sceptical of the new pro-business administration. Read more
Remember that story back in June, when the Indian government blocked a couple of foreign sources of funding for Greenpeace India?
It looks like the courts may not let New Delhi withhold the international transfers. On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court ordered that the blocked funds should be shifted from accounts with the central bank to Greenpeace’s accounts and placed in a fixed deposit until October 10, when a final verdict will be announced. Read more
By Rajeev Mantri, Navam Capital
Energy and clean technology investing has proven to be disastrous for venture capitalists. Capital allocated to clean tech fell to less than half in 2013 from the $3.7 billion invested in 2012, and new clean tech-focused funds were able to raise less than $1 billion last year, compared to $4.5 billion raised in 2012.
High-profile flameouts like Solyndra, A123 Systems, Konarka, Miasole, Better Place and Fisker Automotive have, appropriately enough, made investors very wary. Billions of dollars of equity has evaporated. Successes, such as Tesla Motors and Nest Labs, have been extremely rare. Read more
By Guy Norton of bne in Zagreb
If there’s a subject guaranteed to provoke impassioned debate in Croatia, it’s golf. Millions of people around the world may regard the game as Scotland’s greatest gift to humanity after single-malt whisky, but in Croatia it’s more often seen as one of the darkest evils of global capitalism. Opponents of about 90 proposed golf course developments in the country are keen to characterise golf as the sport of choice for global property speculators willing to wreak long-term environmental damage on Croatia in pursuit of short-term profit. Read more
South Korea’s pride got a boost last year when it was chosen to host the UN’s Green Climate Fund, aimed at channeling billions of dollars to help developing countries mitigate the effects of climate change. But the challenges facing the fund loomed large on Wednesday at its star-studded launch in the new business zone of Songdo, near Seoul.
By Brian Marrs and Agata Hinc
Can the European Union regain the global lead on climate policy? Yes, but not without natural gas. The EU’s credibility as an international leader on climate change hinges on successfully realising its grand visions of a renewables-centric society beyond coal. This vision is simply Euro-dreaming without natural gas, a critical fuel for challenging coal today and supporting renewables tomorrow. Those who are sceptical should just look across the Atlantic, where a natural gas boom has boosted the US economy, bypassed coal-fired generation, and allowed states like California to more cost-effectively assimilate renewables. Read more
Cut the coal, please
Krakow was known for its choking smog in Communist times, when Poland’s medieval capital was bathed in the corrosive stench being pumped out by the nearby Lenin Steelworks.
Fast forward a quarter of a century, and Krakow’s air is still polluted – although the culprit is no longer the steel mill (now owned by Arcelor Mittal) but instead the thousands of people who still heat their homes with coal. The result has been some of the worst air in a still-smoggy country where coal generates about 90 per cent of Poland’s electricity. However, the local government in Krakow is now moving to ban home heating with coal over the next five years. Read more
By Artur Gradziuk of the Polish Institute of International Affairs
Poland has a real image problem when it comes to climate change. Being on the defensive over more ambitious EU climate targets makes it hard for Warsaw to shift attention to aspects of its climate policy that it can be proud of.
One of these is decoupling. While Poland’s economic output doubled over the last 25 years, its greenhouse gas emissions did not increase. In fact,they shrank by more than 30 per cent. In theory, this kind of achievement should serve as an inspiration to other fast-developing countries. Read more
Britain: quite safe, actually
Monday’s storm in southern England may cost insurers around $500m, and the economic impact will be greater still. But for all the media’s headlines about killer storms and more chaos to come, London will be relatively untouched by the flux in weather for the near future.
In fact, London and Paris are the only cities facing a “low risk” from the impacts of climate change, according to a new report from Maplecroft, a risk consultancy. For cities at greater risk, look elsewhere. Read more
Dmitry Medvedev confirmed plans this week to shut down a Soviet-era paper mill on the shores of Lake Baikal that environmentalists say is polluting the world’s biggest reservoir of fresh water. But Russian Greens, who have been campaigning against the Baikalsk plant for more than two decades, are not ready to celebrate yet. They are not even sure that Russia’s prime minister means what he says. Read more
With air pollution in Singapore sinking to the worst level ever recorded because of pervasive forest fires in the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the blame game is in full swing.
Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore‘s environment minister, has called for “urgent and definitive action” by Indonesia, saying that “Singaporeans have lost patience, and are understandably angry, distressed and concerned”. But with accusations flying, who is really at fault? Read more
Nothing spells trouble like dead pigs in a river. This week, more than 6,600 pig carcasses have been pulled from the river that runs through the heart of Shanghai, China’s financial hub, eliciting public disgust and anger.
However the dead pigs of Shanghai are hardly the worst thing to hit China’s rivers. After all, more than 39 per cent of the water in China’s main rivers is already so toxic that any human contact should be avoided, according to a 2011 government study. Shanghai’s main river, the Huangpu, is pristine by comparison – with or without a few decaying pig bodies. So perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising that city authorities swiftly declared that the little porkers had not affected the safety of Shanghai’s tap water. Read more
By uncanny coincidence, the record-breaking pollution that has enveloped Beijing comes almost exactly 60 years after London’s Great Smog of 1952, the worst case of air pollution in British history.
The comparison will not be lost in China. Many Chinese will remember Mao-era propaganda films which often showed London’s smogs as evidence of the failure of capitalism. Britain responded to the enviromental crisis with a clean-up. It’s time for China to do the same. Read more
Polish Christmas traditions include all the usuals such as trees, presents and carols, but there is also a new one – growing protests about the treatment of carp, the main course of most Christmas Eve dinners.
Weeks before Christmas, animal rights groups started a national campaign trying to get people to change their habit of buying live carp. Millions of Poles tote the fatty bottom-dwelling fish home in plastic bags and then pop the fish into the bathtub, where it swims in circles before being killed on December 24.