With its high reliance on manufacturing, mining, and agriculture, South Africa’s economy runs on fresh water. Recent projections estimate a startling 17 percent gap between water demand and supply in the country by 2030. Even more concerning, the areas most affected, the Gauteng and Vaal River regions, are also the most economically significant: According to the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, these two areas produce more than 50 percent of South Africa's wealth and supply more than 80 percent of the country's electricity requirements (more than 50 percent of all the electricity generated in Africa).
As government leaders prepare for next month’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil, one issue is conspicuously absent from the agenda: land rights. Strong property rights—the rights for people to access, control, transfer, and exclude others from land and natural resources—create incentives to invest in sound land management and help protect land from expropriation.
Strengthening land rights has not featured prominently in Rio+20’s first two Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meetings or the “Informals” that preceded them. In fact, only one line in the 29 March draft of The Future We Want, the principle outcome document for Rio+20, touches on land rights. That reference—“avoid creating food and water insecurities and limiting access to land, particularly for the poor”—has already been opposed by a number of developed nations, including the United States and the European Union.
This post was written with Youba Sokona, coordinator of the African Climate Policy Center (ACPC) at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ACPC and WRI have signed a memorandum of understanding to partner on analysis, convening, and other joint activities to promote low-carbon, climate-resilient development in Africa.
WRI recently published "Ready or Not", a report on the roles of national institutions in adapting to climate change, based on WRI’s National Adaptive Capacity (NAC) framework. On February 21, WRI Vulnerability and Adaptation Initiative Co-directors Heather McGray and Johan Schaar led a workshop introducing the NAC framework to 17 staff and fellows of the African Climate Policy Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Gebru Jember of the Ethiopia Climate Change Forum also shared his organization’s experience using the NAC through the ARIA project.
When you have a simple headache, you can take an aspirin, and it usually clears up. But if you have heart disease, you will likely need to make some major changes in your lifestyle: diet, exercise, plenty of doctors’ visits, and perhaps a long-term course of expensive prescription medicine.
Climate change, unfortunately, is no mere headache. Building a climate-resilient society will require long-term and potentially fundamental transformations, including changes both large and small. This is why institutions are central to the climate-resilient development agenda.
Since the discovery of an abundance of oil in 2008, and despite the Parliament’s drafting of the Resolution of Parliament on the oil sector in 2011, Uganda’s extractive sector has avoided public disclosure of its oil production contracts and their revenue streams. But experiences in other African countries, such as Botswana, Ghana, the Republic of Congo, Liberia and Nigeria, provide evidence that the growth of extractive industries need not go hand-in-hand with secret government agreements and revenue corruption. While the path is not always smooth, as these countries progress toward greater transparency, they provide examples for Uganda to consider as its oil industry develops.
I touched down in Durban, South Africa, on Sunday night met by a cool tropical breeze. Since I arrived in this large port city, I’ve been thinking about Africa, which serves as a powerful backdrop for this year’s annual climate conference.
Like many places I’ve visited, especially among developing countries, there is great diversity to the surroundings. The convention center is large and modern. Nearby you find industrial buildings, shopping malls, and hotels – and lots of people in a city pulsating with life.
Snaking across multiple international boundaries and supporting everything from villages and farms to industry and cities, the Orange-Senqu River is one of the most important natural resources in southern Africa. The complexity and significance of the Orange-Senqu basin made it a clear focus for the Aqueduct project, which aims to measure and map physical, reputational, and regulatory water risks in economically important river basins around the world.
With a prototype map for the Yellow River basin in China and global water stress maps completed, the World Resources Institute (WRI) is in the process of expanding its basin-level mapping into other basins around the world, including the Orange-Senqu.
This post is based on the foreword to World Resources: Decision Making in a Changing Climate, co-signed by Helen Clark (UNDP), Achim Steiner (UNEP), Robert B. Zoellick (World Bank Group), and Jonathan Lash (WRI).
Conditions are changing in our world. Some are feeling the impact now, from the heat wave and wildfires in Russia of the last two years, the devastating floods in Pakistan and Australia, tornadoes in the United States, mudslides in Brazil, drought in China. Others are worrying about the impacts to come: the tea growers in Kenya’s highlands who are seeing cases of malaria they didn’t see only five years ago; the cocoa farmers in Ghana who think about how changes in rainfall will affect their sensitive crops; the rice farmers in Vietnam who are increasingly concerned about rising water levels.
WRI’s new report, Making Adaptation Count, proposes a framework for monitoring and evaluating adaptation. What does this mean?
Countries around the world are bracing themselves for the impacts of climate change, and already learning to manage changing rainfall patterns, droughts, floods, and sea level rise. Adapting to these conditions will require countries to implement a range of new projects and innovations. The World Bank estimates that these kinds of efforts – including reinforcing critical infrastructure and dramatically improving agricultural productivity - could cost developing countries US$75-$100 billion annually. In many ways these countries are navigating uncharted territory, and they need to know if adaptation initiatives are creating benefits. That’s why finding ways to keep track of these efforts and their effectiveness is crucial.
This piece originally appeared in The Solutions Journal
Can the current food production system feed a growing population in a changing climate while sustaining ecosystems? The answer is an emphatic “no.”
A new approach is imperative and overdue, one in which the world feeds more people—an estimated 9 billion by 2050—with less ecological impact. To be successful, this new approach must address both how we produce and how we use food.
The fate of heads of state across the globe is tied in large part to their ability to ensure employment, economic growth, and access to cheap food and clean water. Rising food prices have helped topple dictators across the Middle East. Europe, the United States, Japan and other major economies are spending trillions of dollars to restore growth and jobs.
Too often, efforts to address environmental challenges such as pollution, habitat loss and global warming are seen as in conflict with job creation, economic growth and development. Some have suggested that protecting forests will lead to scarcity of land for farming, exacerbating the rise in food prices.
While there are often trade offs, this is not always the case. Recent analysis by WRI’s team of experts, working with the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, has unveiled one of the greatest potential opportunities for combined economic and environmental gains.