Bristol – European Green Capital 2015

Written by Alice Rees on . Posted in General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates

Every year since 2010, a panel of environmental experts has chosen one exceptional city in Europe to be granted the title of ‘European Green Capital of the Year’. This year, 2015, the European Green Capital is Nektarina’s home city of Bristol. The award was envisaged to be a way to reward and recognise cities which are making continual, conscious efforts to improve their environment, become more sustainable, and innovate in green ways.

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Clifton Suspension Bridge (photo credit Gary Newman Low)

The successful bid was led by the Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson. Before getting into politics, Ferguson was an architect, and served two years (2003-2005) as President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, where “he was noted for championing the causes of education, the environment and good urbanism”. In 2012, Ferguson became Bristol’s first elected mayor, but his personal efforts have long had Bristol at their heart. Ferguson’s 1994 purchase and renovation of part of the Imperial Tobacco Factory is not only an laudable example of urban renewal and regeneration, but is also credited with kick-starting the regeneration of the Bedminster region as a whole. He’s known fondly by locals for his love of red trousers.

Although it took three attempts, Bristol has proven itself this year as a Green capital. This means that is has been formally recognised as a city:

  • with demonstrable records of achieving high environmental standards
  • which is committed to ongoing environmental improvement and sustainable development
  • which can act as a role model for other cities, and can inspire them to adopt best practices

As we are based in Bristol, we thought we’d give a brief overview of what makes it a Green Capital.

Bristol is the UK’s city with the lowest per capita emissions of CO2. In 2010, Bristol’s per capita emissions were just 4.7t, compared to 5.6t on average in other major cities, and 6.6t average nationally. This low amount represents a reduction between 2005 and 2010 of 19%.

Bristol has also affected a huge shift in waste management, moving from over 85% of waste being landfilled in 2004-2005 to just 25% of waste being landfilled in 2012-2013. This represents a performance which is now 23% better than the national average, with Bristol producing 378kg household waste per capita, compared to 449kg as a national average.

This is an impressive performance, putting Bristol ahead of national targets to reduce emissions despite a growing local economy, a thriving industry, and a popular university.

How has it achieved these excellent levels of reduction?

Bristol City Council has engaged in many schemes to lower emissions and energy use, including:

  • improving municipality buildings to reduce energy usage
  • modernising street lights – so far 10,500 street lamps have been updated to use energy efficient LEDs.
  • an Eco-Schools programme which improves energy performance and promotes climate change awareness in schools. Also involving 32 schools in a solar power project with an installed capacity of 568kWp.
  • a 6MW wind turbine development on council owned land, making Bristol the first UK council to own wind turbines
  • using schemes to promote awareness and alternative transport to reduce council transport emissions by 32%
  • developing 15 new Biomass boilers fed by organic waste from park/street maintenance
  • a £20m investment in improving the cycling and walking infrastructure
  • improving public transport, with 10 new bus routes and new, more efficient vehicles.
  • facilitating a network of over 250 businesses who have pledged to lower their own carbon emissions and make Bristol a low carbon city with a high quality of life.
  • a scheme which has improved the energy efficiency of over 20,000 homes with insulation and improved energy systems
  • providing bespoke and accessible advice to over 100,000 residents to help the community affect positive changes
  • requiring all new developments to have an energy plan and to incorporate on-site renewable energy generation
  • weekly recycling collection services for 14 recyclable materials
  • a network of recycling sites and household waste recycling centres
  • a massive awareness and informational campaign alongside social enterprises to inform and educate people about better waste management and how to lower waste production
  • targeted and specially designed informative communications to encourage the reduction of waste and better waste management habits, including linking recycling to Islamic teaching and practices

This is just a handful of the strategies Bristol City Council have adopted to make sure that Bristol is not only one of the greenest cities in the UK, but also in the whole of Europe, and well deserving of its title of European Green Capital of 2015.

You can find out about events and more info about Bristol’s year as European Green Capital at the website bristol2015.

This Earth Day, Stand up for Youth Engagement

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, General Information, Green Economy, India, News, Regions, Take Action

first-photograph-of-the-entire-earth-nasa-apollo-8-1968Photo Source: Google

It is true that the most celebrated photograph in the world is of Earth, famously called Earthrise. In 1968, the astronauts of Apollo 8 mission took a photograph of Earth from space. The photograph of a beautiful azure planet floating peacefully changed our perspective of Earth as not just a mere dump. Humanity started viewing it as a delicate living planet where millions of species live together, sharing this vast space and calling it home.

The photograph is also credited for initiating the environmental movement and giving birth to 22 April as Earth Day. For once I am happy to know that Earthrise is the most celebrated photograph in the world and it is not of a woman. Knowing how a woman’s body is objectified these days and is used to sell everything from men razors to boxer shots. This restored my faith in humanity.

We can’t take the earth for granted especially given the fast deteriorating condition of the global environment. Sustainable lifestyle choices are the need of the time. With youth making up half of the population, it is important to raise awareness among young people on how to take care of the earth so that life may persist.

This Earth Day we need to stand up for youth engagement. The Earth Charter Principle 12c stresses the importance of youth engagement.

 “Honor and support the young people of our communities, enabling them to fulfill their essential role in creating sustainable societies.”
Education for Sustainability, a project of Nektarina Non-Profit, believes that to establish a just and sustainable society it is important to engage youth, empower them and work to build their capacity. In the past, Nektarina Non-Profit has worked closely with the Earth Day Network, keeping in mind the Earth Charter principles. Nektarina Non-Profit has been offering platforms to youth to learn the values of a sustainable way of life in India, Ghana, Cameroon , Sierra Leone, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.  It plans to continue supporting youth, encouraging them to embrace the sustainability vision of Earth Charter.

To celebrate World Environment Day 2014 in India, Nektarina Non-Profit organized a rally in Pune. Students from different institutions, universities, schools, and colleges; representatives of civil society organizations, companies, and political parties were gathered at one event to celebrate World Environment Day. It did manage to raise awareness among young people about the environmental issues and how to make sustainable lifestyle choices, care for the Earth and be an active participant in the environment movement. This year again Nektarina Non Profit will be holding an event in India in June.

Youth engagement is not just a buzzword in the development field. The term has more to do with youth involvement in challenging unsustainable norms and taking responsible actions to create positive change. Instead of waiting for a grand cataclysmic change it is time to give our little contribution, whenever and wherever possible. So this Earth Day let’s stand up for youth engagement and put the planet Earth in the hands of informed citizens of tomorrow.

Deliberating on Sustainability

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, India, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action

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A poster at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit

The Delhi Sustainable Development Summit is held every year around a theme that is identified as the most pressing issue of the current times. The themes at DSDS have ranged from protecting the global commons to global challenge of resource efficient growth and development.

Currently energy crisis, water and food crisis are emerging problems. To create a robust green economy these three interlinked and interdependent resources should be secured.  “Sustainable Development Goals and dealing with climate change” was identified as the theme for the 15th edition of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, held from 5-7 February, 2015 in New Delhi, India.

From Lima to Paris while stopping by in India these gatherings that bring together important personalities and decision makers provide a platform for people to come together and talk about issues that have become a huge concern of this century. It is just a matter of time whether these talks will be materialized into actions, productive actions that will put a full stop on the abuse of earth’s resources.

This year’s Summit at Delhi discussed these specific issues, striving to find ways forward towards a sustainable future.  Mr. Kofi Annan (Nobel Laureate and Former Secretary-General, United Nations) gave an inaugural keynote address in 2014 stating that just like the developed world the developing countries cannot continue to exploit the resources of the world as lack of access to energy, water and food withholds the growth of the developing world.

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Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger with other prominent speakers at DSDS

Several eminent world leaders participated in the event including speakers from diverse sectors like the famous action hero and former Governor of California Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In terms of Gujarat’s clean energy actions he termed Gujarat as “the California of India”. He said:

“Climate change is not science fiction and it is impacting us right now. This is bigger than a movie and this is the biggest challenge of our times.”

“Mr. Modi has shown that small actions and sub-national governments have tremendous power. They don’t have to wait for national governments to create action,” he said adding that Mr. Modi would prove the naysayers in the world wrong. Mr. Schwarzenegger said, “We must think differently if we are going to win the battle [against climate change] and change the world.” He added.

Despite managing to gather eminent personalities in the global south, the DSDS did not get enough media attention like the other big conferences on similar issues. This does raise a question here. Is the developing world considered less important when it comes to tackling grave problems knowing it is being affected the most?

Recently the environment minister of India said that clean energy will form a main part of India’s national climate strategy yet Prakash Javedekar added that India would resist any outside scrutiny with reference to the European calls for transparency.

“There is no question of an ex-ante review in an independent country and democratic country like India,” Javedekar said.

On speaking about the road to a UN summit in Paris this December, where world leaders hope to come up with a global climate deal, Mr.Prakash Javedekar said that since the last half century the carbon emissions have increased with each passing day and now the developing world is asking the developed world will it vacate the carbon space?

By the end of March the developed countries are expected to reveal their draft contributions towards the international effort to limit carbon emissions. India is among a number of developing countries that promises to publish its climate plan.Susheel Kumar, a top official and climate negotiator, said that the government is striving for a transparent and comprehensive national climate strategy that will be based on consultation with civil society in India . He added “There is no room for international intervention.”

The grave problem of climate justice that affects the entire world population should be about coming up with a strategy that is inclusive and is not discriminatory. Here we have to put aside the hierarchy of the developed and developing world as we all are together in this.  Green growth talks about the earthlings. It has been recognized to have the potential to develop a resilient, sustainable and inclusive pattern of growth across countries.

This is the message we need to take back with us from these high profile conferences and not a rift that highlights the polar extremes as a hindrance to achieve the stated goal.

“You Have Not come here to just enjoy Lima”

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Cameroon, General Information, Ghana, Green Economy, India, News, News & Updates, Publications, Regions, Sierra Leone, Take Action, Trinidad and Tobago

1017932Manuel Pulgar Vidal , President of COP20 addressing the audience in Lima

Photo Source: Google

“This is the time to take decisions…we want to give a clear and strong message that we want to take this process forward…you have not come here to just enjoy Lima…we must not accept to leave Lima with empty hands ” Manuel Pulgar Vidal said in a passionate appeal to the negotiators on the second last day of COP 20.

Vidal who was acting as the President of the conference or COP 20 (Conference of Parties) shared the disappointed of many that no progress was made on the negotiating text. With just one more day to go till the end of the conference and negotiations it was indeed saddening to see another deadlock looming on the horizon.

When we talk about global climate agreement one question that pops out is; with the global political crisis, where most countries are at war with each other both physically and otherwise, will they ever be able to negotiate in terms of climate justice?  I have been asking this question a lot and have never come across a sane explanation. In an extremely unjust world ruled by people who value profit is it even possible to talk about climate justice? Are we just fooling ourselves trying to make a difference by attending these important meetings visited by the many heads of states who are good at posing for photographs with the delegates but not drafting sound agreements?

Climate talks have remained deadlocked be it Brazil or Lima. Defeated in Brazil we thought we have a battle to fight in Lima where we may win and now we are looking forward to Paris in 2015. Is it just about wasting another year? When it comes to climate can we really afford to waste these many years? What are we waiting for?

These glorious opportunities that bring so many countries together should be made use of properly without wasting too much time, money and energy. There was an Ad-hoc Working Group on Durban Platform (ADP) at the COP 20 that was supposed to decide how various countries will contribute in the fight against climate change. The contributions that will be determined nationally are called Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions (INDCs). The INDCs will form the backbone of the global climate agreement that is expected to be finalized at the next climate conference in Paris in 2015.

Unfortunately there are disagreements existing on several issues related to INDCs. Regarding the actions that have to be taken by developed countries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions before 2020 there isn’t a clear understanding. By using the jargons many countries try to get away without presenting a clear action plan. The mitigation/adaptation debate over the INDCs and whether these contributions should be put to an international review had been slow.

The frustrating slow pace of the Lima negotiations does disappoint many around the globe including the developing world that is mostly on the receiving end. Developing world is most affected by the decisions made by the developed world that even ship its waste to the global South. Also some countries in the developing world  clearly have other priorities.

According to Al Jazeera “China has said emissions will peak by 2030, while India chose to put economic growth ahead of emissions caps.”

How many more conferences and drafts do we need to understand and acknowledge the unforeseen adversity in the years to come?

AlJazeera reported :

 “ In Peru, the venue for this year’s crucial climate change conference, illegal logging continues at unprecedented rates.”

 “The capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, is a city under threat as it is sinking at a rate of seven centimetres every year. By 2030, according to experts, half of the city will be below sea level. Step Vassen reports from the Indonesian capital.”

 “In South Sudan, many people are chopping down trees just to exist. The country’s oilfields generate billions of dollars a year, but all the oil is exported, leaving millions of people to rely on wood and charcoal for fuel. The current rate of deforestation will mean no forest will be left in South Sudan within three or four decades.”

And the list goes on. The empty slogans made by the politicians demanding actions against climate change in not enough. Someone rightly said that with great power comes great responsibility. Here I would like to make an urgent appeal to the world leaders/politicians to take up this responsibility without wasting more time.

The Man Who Grew A Forest

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, India, News, News & Updates, Take Action

Back in the 50s a tale was written about Elzeard Bouffier . The Man Who Planted Trees was a tale written by Jean Giono and the character of Elzeard Buoffier was created to make readers fall in love with trees. After reading the story based on a fictitious character made me recall a living person who single handedly grew an extensive forest on 550 hectare sandbar.

 Jadav Payang has dedicated many years of his life to planting trees on the island leaving his home and education behind. Majuli Island is a sandbar that happens to be the largest river island on earth located in Northeast India. The forest planted by Jadav is known as Molai forest after his nickname Molai.

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Jadav Payeng, Photo Source: Google

Back in 1979 when Payeng was 16 years old floods washed a large number of snakes on the shore of the sandbar. A number of snakes died due to the hot weather as they didn’t have any shelter. Payeng was taken aback by this carnage and tried to reach out to the forest department to grow trees there. They told him to grow bamboo himself and nobody was ready to be of any help. That was a turning point in Payeng’s life that motivated a single man to grow a forest that surpassed the scale of New York’s Central Park. Seeing Jadav Payeng makes one believe in humanity and selflessness. It is interesting to note that the sprawling forest now is home to many endangered animals. The story of Jadav is an inspiration for the world filling the wide chasms of hopelessness surrounding us.

In a world where ambition drives people crazy Jadav Payeng does give people a message of love for nature. By pruning and watering the plants morning and evening he does tell us that there are other living things sharing the planet with us whom we should look after. Payeng delightfully tells that it was an experience where the fauna and flora flourished including endangered animals like the Royal Bengal tiger and one- horned rhino.

 We all like to talk about saving the planet and hardly act on what we preach. All the conferences and seminars happening behind closed doors on environment and conservation might not have Jadav Payeng in their midst because he is busy doing something important. He is putting our words into action. We don’t need big words anymore we need action driven by a genuine passion and commitment to preserve what we already have. If the world has agreed upon any definition of a hero, Jadav Payeng is surely my hero whom I greatly admire for his dedication and commitment. What he has done and is still doing is truly extra ordinary.

Is The Nobel Peace Prize Gamed?

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, India, News, News & Updates, Publications, Regions, Take Action

The manufacturer of armaments and an inventor of dynamite Alfred Nobel once said:

“I intend to leave after my death a large fund for the promotion of the peace idea, but I am skeptical as to its results.”

In a non-harmonious world the word peace has a central focus these days. It is often used and abused but most importantly it lacks an agreeable definition.  To me it is often unreal and utopian. Interestingly in the field of peace research there are terms like negative peace and positive peace, carrying a normative value of striving towards peace. Who would better understand the complexities that revolve around the word “peace” than the Norwegian Peace Prize Committee considering the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, Norway has dedicated years researching on peace.  I don’t want to sound cynical as I do believe that another world is possible. But for that to happen we need to be aware of the realities that are often deliberately hidden from our sight.

The ways in which things work in this world are strange. It is true that many die in anonymity no matter how big their contribution or how many years they have dedicated to serve humanity. I don’t want to propose my own list of the worthy opponents nor have anything against the individuals who won this year’s prize. The India- Pakistan duo does sound lovely and reflect the ethnocentrism of the Western world.

In 1990s the chairman of Norwegian Nobel Committee Francis Sejersted once acknowledged,

“The prize … is not only for past achievement. … The committee also takes the possible positive effects of its choices into account [because] … Nobel wanted the prize to have political effects. Awarding a peace prize is, to put it bluntly, a political act.”

 As the high profile award ceremony takes place in one corner of the world many experiencing conflicts on daily basis are unaware what this peace prize is all about. How about asking a Syrian, a Palestinian, a Liberian, an Iraqi, an Afghan …. for a definition of peace? In 2009 this prestigious award was bestowed on Barack Obama. Was it for ramping up the drone program?  In 2012 European Union was given the award right after it bombed Libya. Is the prize just about Norway’s geopolitical tilt?

The makers of the war can’t fool people by bringing temporary peace.

In Pakistan Malala Yousafzai recently being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize stirred many debates and discussions in the media. I am proud of Malala and her stance on education for young girls but what I question is the credibility of the Nobel Committee. Just to put on record there are many girls in Pakistan voicing similar concerns not yet picked by the West to propagate white savior complex.  Malala is the voice of Pakistan but being a 17 years old girl she might still be unaware of the manipulation that comes with her situation.

The Nobel Committee based in one small West European nation, comprising of members of political establishment is not capable of assessing who has done the most for peace in the world. The decision made by such a committee is prone to some kind of ideological bias or ethnocentricity.

Managing to hyphenate India and Pakistan yet again by awarding the prize jointly to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai does sound and looks good yet to be taken with a grain of salt. No matter the pattern of funds or relationships with evangelical organizations Malala Yousafzai’s contemporary has dedicated many years of his life for a cause. This does make me say that Abdul Sattar Edhi might have been a choice for the committee too considering his work and service.

What would be the impact of this Nobel in Pakistan? The Taliban has promised more violence and we can assume they will carry out more attacks on women and schoolchildren which surely would boil the blood in the West. That might also lead to more Malalas suffering at the hands of the Talibans, who might not be given a safe haven abroad to continue to voice their concerns.

In the past we have seen how the hands of hardliners are strengthened be it Myanmar, Iran and China. The peace prize awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi, Shirin Ebadi and Dalai Lama brought no assistance to the awardees or the cause they stood for. 2000 Tibetans were executed, several imprisoned by the Chinese between November 1989 and April 1990. It was right after the Dalai Lama was awarded the prize in October 1989.

It is time to move away from the dangerous prize. The Nobel Peace Prize does not guarantee change in the world but celebrates and reaffirms liberal ideal for which it should be recognized. But the increasingly frequent cases in which the award is bestowed seeking democratic political change, the winners should beware.

Nature’s Fury is Inevitable

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, Publications, Take Action

Against the backdrop of the current political deadlock in Pakistan, many other important issues affecting thousands of people have been sidelined.

The media is all eyes and ears for the fiery speeches, debates and discussions in the power play, and the awareness definitely plays an important role in stabilising the situation.But what about the section of the populace greatly affected and displaced by the current war in north west Pakistan and the floods?PAKISTAN_-_0911_-_Alluvioni_e_Chiesa_(F)

Photo Source: www.asianews.it

At least 193 people have lost their lives and 164 injured across Pakistan during floods in the first week of September. The overflowing rivers are wreaking havoc on already frail infrastructure in many regions in Pakistan.

According to the National Disaster Management (NDMA) report, 28, 538 people have been affected in Punjab and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.The number of people displaced by floods at this moment is still unknown. Sadly, even catastrophes of this magnitude can’t bring our politicians together and prioritise these issues.

Just a glance at the record of floods from 2010 to 2014 shows how major a threat monsoon rains currently are. Surprisingly, in the 2010 floods, the number of individuals affected exceed the total of individuals affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, Kashmir earthquake in 2005 and the Haiti earthquake in 2010.And the loss of lives is not limited to the figures or numbers reported every time in the media.How many more red flags do we need to realise that climate change is an issue which affects all of us?

It is sad to know that globally, the people most affected by climate change are the ones who are least responsible for it.Perhaps that’s why we’re so resistant to the climate change alarm, which sits comfortably amidst us as we go about our agendas with the ‘business as usual’ approach.There is near-universal agreement among activists that efforts to limit carbon emissions have failed miserably, and that failure doesn’t come because the movement has embraced the oxymoron of “sustainable growth” or because it needs to work more closely with the business community. Rather, it’s because climate change activism is not challenging the key invisible narratives that drive our civilisation.

Being part of the Rio+20 UN Earth Summit held in Brazil, I can say that the willingness to acknowledge the threat and act accordingly is lacking.Now with another UN Summit on climate crisis in September, it is hoped that meaningful action will be taken. We have had enough talks sitting comfortably in the past behind closed doors.Earlier talks have ended mostly without reaching any important conclusion or an action plan. It should be more than just about choosing an exotic destination, inviting world leaders and activists to talk. We have had enough talks and it is no rocket science that we are destroying the biodiversity which allows nature systems to work efficiently.

It is time to take action if we want the seven billion people living on this planet to live with finite resources. No amount of funds can save us if we keep on destroying and polluting the soil, water and air which keep us alive.

The People’s Climate March to be held on September 21 aims at gathering hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of Delhi, New York, London , Berlin, Rio de Janeiro and Jakarta; and pressure world leaders who will be gathered for the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit to take action on global warming.This is the largest mobilisation in the history of climate change and it wants to send a strong message to the world leaders — it is time to take action.

“People from across the planet will be making sure that leaders gathered in New York know the demand for action comes from every corner. This is the first truly global problem, and it has spawned the first truly global movement,” says Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org.

In Pakistan, the issue of climate change is often sidelined and replaced with more “important issues”, without the acknowledgement that the social, economic and political issues are all intertwined.The earthquakes, the floods, the energy crisis, the rising temperatures, the unavailability of clean drinking water — are these not ‘important’ enough problems? Or is it just that we choose to stay aloof?

 Recently, most Pakistanis rejected the hypothetical UN Study based on a conjectural 9.0 magnitude earthquake in the Makran Trench (a meeting point for Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates, off the coast of Pakistan). The study stated that Karachi, home to around 18 million people, could be wiped out by a tsunami if something like that happens.

Karachi experienced a tsunami in the past too. In 1945, around 4000 people lost their lives to it.Instead of being sceptic about it, it is time to take aggressive measures to counter climate change. We are already seeing and feeling its effects. Let’s not shut our eyes to it.

Republished from http://www.dawn.com/news/1132137/how-many-disasters-does-pakistan-need-to-focus-on-climate-change