Two and a half millennia ago, Plato announced that “Human behavior flows from three things: desire, emotion, and knowledge.” Unfortunately, our human and corporate behavior on climate change is not even close to where it needs to be. But if the great philosopher was right (and he usually was), 2013 may have been a game changer.
The big news from 2013 came from gains in knowledge. New tools and research are opening our understanding much wider than before. But will we act on this? Knowledge can spur action, but this path is not guaranteed.
Manish Bapna highlights five standout climate and energy stories of 2013, which point to signs that some businesses, consumers, and governments are moving toward a growing understanding of the risks of climate change. The question is whether this heightened awareness will shift a global course quickly enough to reduce negative climate impacts. This blog post was originally published at Forbes.
As 2013 comes to a close, it’s a good time to look back on the impact we’ve made in the world this year.
We made progress on tackling key sustainability challenges, including addressing climate change, promoting clean energy, ensuring food security and stable water supplies, reducing forest degradation, and creating sustainable cities. Take a look at our nine top outcomes:
India struggles with water scarcity, a problem that poses especially huge implications for the country’s food security and rural livelihoods. The country has long-battled its scarcity issues through Watershed Development, a participatory approach to improve water management through afforestation and reforestation, sustainable land management, soil and water conservation, water-harvesting infrastructure, and social interventions. But while watershed development has been employed in communities throughout India, its potential long-term costs and benefits have not been well-understood or studied--until now.
A new working paper from WRI and WOTR finds that watershed development has provided more than $9 million dollars’ worth of food security and water management benefits to the water-stressed community, Kumbharwadi.
Energy efficiency programs in world's major developing countries could save 1,500 Terawatt hours of energy and save consumers US$ 1.5 trillion by 2030.
But despite their “win-win” nature, the purchase of energy efficient appliances remains low in some countries—including in India. This is in part due to low levels of involvement by local civil society organizations (CSOs) in the energy efficiency standards and labeling (S&L) process.
In much of Africa, the bundle of land rights that most rural people legally hold is relatively small—usually limited to surface rights and certain rights to some natural resources on and below the surface, such as rights to water for domestic use. Many high-value natural resources—such as oil, natural gas, minerals, and wildlife—are governed by separate legal regimes and administered by different public institutions. Africa’s governments often allocate these rights to outside, commonly foreign companies for large-scale operations. In other words, while many communities hold rights to the land, foreign companies hold the rights to the natural resources on or under the same plot. These overlapping rights oftentimes lead to conflict, unsustainable use of resources, and injustices.
The world’s forests and the people who depend on them face a host of challenges—including deforestation, rural poverty, and degradation of critical ecosystem services. These negative outcomes are often exacerbated by weak forest governance, including low levels of transparency and participation in forest decision-making and as well as poor oversight of forest activities. To tackle these issues, decision-makers need better information about the institutional, political, and social factors that drive governance failures.
An updated tool from WRI’s Governance of Forests Initiative aims to help policy-makers, civil society organizations, and other forest stakeholders evaluate governance of their countries’ forests. Assessing Forest Governance: The Governance of Forests Initiative Indicator Framework updates the original GFI indicators, which were published in 2009 and piloted by WRI’s civil society partners in Brazil, Cameroon, and Indonesia. Using the indicators, stakeholders can identify strengths and weaknesses in forest governance and develop reforms that benefit both people and planet.
Multinational companies (MNCs) typically have operations and supply chains in many parts of the world. The way they respond to climate change, therefore, can affect many populations, including poor communities in developing countries, where many people are especially vulnerable to heat waves, sea level rise, and other climate change impacts. MNCs sometimes find themselves in tension with local groups and the environment, but they can also play an important role in making these communities more climate-resilient.
Here are three ways that MNCs can contribute to climate change adaptation in developing countries:
This year’s climate negotiations in Warsaw, Poland (COP 19) were a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, the summit’s outcomes were dramatically out of step with the level of action needed to solve the climate change problem. A tempting metaphor for the talks was the national stadium in which they were held– one could go around in endless circles in search of the right location.
On the other hand, the Warsaw COP did achieve the incremental outcomes needed to move the process forward. Negotiators put in place a work plan for securing an international climate agreement at COP 21 in Paris in 2015. The COP also made progress on scaling up climate finance and addressing the difficult issue of loss and damage, a process for addressing climate impacts that are difficult or impossible to adapt to. These are small but important steps toward bringing countries out of their repetitive, circular discussions and closer to agreeing collectively on how to address global climate change.
The Open Government Partnership (OGP)—which held its most recent summit about three weeks ago—has made tremendous progress in its two years of existence. The OGP, a voluntary partnership between governments and civil society, aims to make governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. Discussions at the summit made it clear that the partnership is already demonstrating impact. Sixty-two governments have now joined OGP, making 1,115 commitments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
The Summit provided a real sense that there’s a growing community who really “gets” the importance of open government to meeting development goals. Yet there was still a gap in the discourse in one particular area—the environment.
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