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Governance & Access

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  • Blog post

    Kyrgyzstan Makes Progress on Electricity Sector Reform

    This post was written with Sarah Lupberger, Project Coordinator with WRI's Electricity Governance Initiative.

    A year and a half has passed since a political uprising rocked the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan. The violent protests in April 2010 were in part a response to mismanagement of the energy sector and a loss of public trust in the government’s ability to provide essential services like electricity. These protests eventually grew into a revolution that ousted President Bakiyev.

    Today, electricity sector reforms and engagement with civil society groups have begun to show signs of progress, according to WRI’s partners in the Electricity Governance Initiative (EGI).

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  • Blog post

    Q & A: The Legal Aspects of the Durban Platform Text

    At the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change (COP-17) in Durban – “the longest COP ever” -- Parties agreed to establish an Ad Hoc Working Group on a Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (AWG-DP). The AWG-DP has the mandate to develop “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties.”

    The AWG-DP will start its work “as a matter of urgency” in the first half of 2012. It will complete it no later than 2015, with the outcome to be adopted at COP-21 and to come into effect and be implemented from 2020. The content of AGDP’s workplan will focus in particular on “enhancing mitigation ambition to identify and to explore options for a range of actions that can close the ambition gap with a view to ensuring the highest possible mitigation efforts by all Parties.”

    What are the legal implications of the Durban Platform text, and what could the different legal options mean for the UNFCCC? Below we go through some questions and answers:

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  • Blog post

    Forests and REDD+ in COP17 Durban

    With all its complex processes and acronyms, it’s easy to forget that the international climate change negotiations are supposed to lead to changes on the ground. There have been several developments this year, however, which should remind us of the urgency of the task and the importance of getting each piece of the puzzle right, including incentives for developing countries to reduce their emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).

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  • Blog post

    Climate Finance at COP17 Durban

    This piece was written with Louise Brown, Research Analyst at WRI.

    From November 28 to December 9, negotiators will gather in Durban, South Africa, for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP17 meeting. An outcome on climate finance – funds to support climate change mitigation and adaptation activities in developing countries – is a key part of the overall Durban agreement. This includes agreeing on how the Green Climate Fund (GCF) will be structured and governed, setting in motion a process to identify how developed countries will meet their long-term finance commitment of $100 billion by 2020, and agreeing on the role, composition and functions of the Standing Committee, a body that will monitor finance flows and enhance overall decision-making on climate finance.

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  • Blog post

    The Open Government Partnership: Will Brazil Promote Green Transparency?

    This piece was written with Catarina Freitas, a Brazilian legal intern with WRI's Institutions and Governance Program.

    On September 20, eight governments will gather in New York to launch the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a new multilateral initiative to strengthen transparency, citizen participation, accountability, and share new technologies and innovation. The Brazilian and U.S. governments are leading the initiative, which also involves the governments of Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, and the United Kingdom as founding members.

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  • Blog post

    Government Report on Deepwater Horizon Spill Fails to Recognize Its Own Responsibility

    An official report released by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE, formerly MMS) and the Coast Guard puts BP, Transocean, and other contractors at the center of blame for the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

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  • Blog post

    What Do You Want From Rio+20?

    20 years after the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, “Rio+20” will review progress on and reaffirm a global commitment to the policies designed to foster economic growth that is both inclusive and respects the planet’s limited carrying capacity. Amidst a lingering global recession, a widening gap between rich and poor, and heightened competition for energy, food and other scarce natural resources, the conference could not be more timely. Unfortunately, no clear vision for Rio+20 has emerged, and expectations of the Conference remain low.

    Three Demands for Rio+20

    What should Rio+20 achieve, and how should governments prepare for it? To help answer these questions, WRI has been working as part of The Access Initiative (TAI) to encourage governments to develop specific recommendations for Rio+20. As part of these efforts, the global TAI network has now launched the Three Demands (3Ds) Campaign.

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  • Blog post

    SEC Regulations Could Bring Oil Revenue Transparency to Uganda

    Now twice delayed during the public comment and rule-drafting periods, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is due to release regulations for Section 1504 of the Wall Street Reform Act in late August. Recent developments in Uganda’s oil industry have made the release of these transparency provisions more urgent than ever.

    Oil production is not scheduled to begin in Uganda until next year, but the country is already feeling its impacts. Major developments in Uganda’s oil sector and recent setbacks in government transparency lend new urgency to the passing of SEC regulations to implement Section 1504 of the Wall Street Reform Act.

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  • Blog post

    Are Governments Ready for Rio 2012?

    Though the Earth Summit, Rio+20, will take place next June, few governments have started to seriously assess their progress towards achieving the internationally agreed upon sustainable development goals outlined in the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21, according to a recent survey from the Access Initiative.

    Time is running short. In order to have a successful Rio+20, governments must submit meaningful and ambitious goals to the Zero Draft of the Outcome Document by November 1, which will outline the agenda and discussion points for Rio+20.

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Scaling Up Climate Finance: Why We Need to Invest in Institutions

Addressing global climate change requires huge investments. In order to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius and protect vulnerable communities from climate change’s impacts, experts estimate that developing countries will need between $110 and $275 billion annually to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The International Energy Agency estimates that for developing countries to transition to low carbon energy, approximately $10 trillion dollars in energy investments by 2050 is required. In addition, another $ 1.5 trillion per year will be required by 2030 for adaptation action.

Unfortunately, there’s a huge gap between the funding we have and the funding we need: According to experts, developing countries’ climate change financing needs exceed current and prospective flows by at least five to 10 times. While many policy analysts focus on the need for more money and a greater availability of technology to bridge this gap, there’s another issue that’s less talked about but equally important: investing in institutions and capacity development.

By “institutions,” I mean countries’ national structures, mechanisms, and related arrangements to effectively implement climate policy and administer climate finance, such as a national climate change commission, an inter-agency committee on climate change, a national climate change adaptation fund, or national climate change trust funds. “Investing” in these institutions means creating the necessary policy, institutional, industry, and financial conditions that can help scale up investments in climate action. Building these strong and effective institutions will also require capacity and knowledge-building.

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Using Partnerships and Governance to Solve the Energy "Trilemma"

This post was co-written with Sarah Martin, an intern with WRI's Electricity Governance Initiative.

The theme of today’s Blog Action Day is the “Power of We,” a celebration of people working together to make a positive difference in the world. The idea of partnership is at the core of WRI’s Electricity Governance Initiative (EGI), a network of civil society organizations dedicated to promoting transparent, inclusive, and accountable decision-making in the electricity sector. In honor of Blog Action Day, this post outlines some of EGI’s most recent work towards finding new responses to the emerging energy “Trilemma.”

The energy “Trilemma” is a newly developed concept outlining the main hurdles to achieving universal access to clean, reliable, and affordable energy. The Trilemma involves three interrelated challenges: meeting the growing demand for clean, affordable, and reliable electricity; ensuring economic growth and energy security; and developing a low-carbon growth strategy.

WRI’s Electricity Governance Initiative (EGI) is a network of more than 30 organizations from 10 countries dedicated to promoting transparent, inclusive, and accountable decision-making in the electricity sector. EGI recently held its annual retreat, where partners representing 10 countries discussed how good governance and collaboration can help tackle the energy Trilemma.

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Can Access to Information Protect Communities from Pollution? A Lesson from Map Ta Phut, Thailand

This post was co-authored with Elizabeth Moses, an intern with The Access Initiative.

Today is International Right to Know Day, a global initiative to share ideas and stories on right to information (RTI) laws and transparent governance. This blog post provides an inside look at how citizens from one Thai community are seeking access to information in order to protect themselves from environmental pollution.

On May 5, 2012, 12 people were killed and 129 injured in Thailand’s Rayong Province. The devastation occurred when a holding tank containing toluene exploded at the Bangkok Synthethics petrochemical factory in Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate, an area housing nearly 150 industrial facilities. The very next day, a mixture of hypochlorite and hydrochloric acid gas leaked from Map Ta Phut’s Aditya Birla Chemical Plant, sending 138 people to the hospital.

As the Bangkok Post noted, the more than 49,000 residents in areas surrounding Map Ta Phut received no warnings about the industrial accidents. They were not told if it was safe to remain in the region or if they should evacuate. In fact, details about the toxic chemicals released during the accidents were not even immediately provided to community members.

Leaving residents in the dark about the dangers they faced undeniably threatened their health. But what would have happened if community members already had information about the chemicals regularly used and emitted by Map Ta Phut’s industries? What if they understood the risks of being exposed to these chemicals and how to cope with these dangers should accidents happen? Would having easy access to information about the industrial estate help them protect themselves from industrial accidents and pollution?

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Improved Governance Needed in G20's Report on Infrastructure Development

A few months back, I attended the US-China-Brazil Forum on Sustainable Infrastructure and Development, organized by the International Fund for China’s Environment. I was joined by a few other development experts, including representatives from the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, Pacific Environment, the Brookings Institution, and the Heinrich Böll Foundation of North America. Our “Infrastructure Investment Strategies and Project Selection Criteria” panel provided an opportunity to discuss the final report of the G20 High-Level Panel (HLP) on infrastructure.

The HLP report, “High Level Panel on Infrastructure Recommendations to G20-Final Report,” acts as a guide for infrastructure project selection in the developing world. While the report successfully draws attention to the important topic of infrastructure development in developing countries, it has been criticized by civil society groups for failing to include effective governance strategies and for focusing too much on large-scale projects.

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What's Next for the Green Climate Fund?

This past week, the board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) met for the first time. This was an important milestone around the goal of increasing financial support to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change. Expectations are high for the Fund, officially established at the 2011 Durban climate talks. It’s positioned to become the main global channel for climate finance, expected to reach $100 billion per year by 2020.

Sentiments from Last Week’s Meetings

There was an atmosphere of excitement at last week’s meetings in Geneva, which brought together a group of 24-countries and their alternates, charged with improving the mobilization of climate finance. The meeting itself focused largely on procedural actions, including the election of the two co-chairs.

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Open Government Partnership: African Nations Commit to New Levels of Transparency

This post was co-written with Gilbert Sendugwa, Coordinator and Head of Secretariat for the Africa Freedom of Information Centre.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) boasts some pretty lofty and much-needed goals. The global initiative aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. It was officially launched September 20, 2011 by eight founding governments: Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, and United States.

Now that the OGP is nearly one year old, it’s a good time to analyze how it’s faring—most notably in Africa, which has a long history of secrecy in government and lack of effective public participation.

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India’s Blackouts Highlight Need for Electricity Governance Reform

India recently experienced one of the world’s worst blackouts, with 670 million citizens directly impacted. While media reports have focused on the repercussions from two days of outages, this incident illustrates a much larger, more systemic problem: the need for improved electricity governance.

India’s History of Power Problems

India has the world’s fifth-largest electrical system, with an installed electric capacity of about 206 gigawatts (GW). India initiated power sector reforms in the early 1990s through a range of legal, policy, and regulatory changes. Over the last two decades, some of these reforms have been impressive, but several others weren’t taken. This lack of follow-through has resulted in a growing gap between electricity demand and supply throughout the country. Recent blackouts may have shined a spotlight on this gap, but it’s a situation that’s widespread in India: Not only do 400 million Indians lack access to electricity, but electricity supply is unreliable and of poor quality even in large parts of “electrified” India. In addition to the existing demand, Indian consumers, businesses, and industries seek more electricity to power appliances, processes, and products, further exacerbating the demand-supply gap. By 2035, India’s power demand is expected to more than double.

In looking at the recent blackouts and India’s power supply situation in general, three major governance issues jump out:

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Rio+20 in the Rear View: Why We Need to Connect the Grassroots to the Grasstops

Sarah Martin and Gayatri Gadag also contributed to this blog post.

Rio+20 may have ended more than three weeks ago, but the environmental and development communities are still feeling the disappointment. One of the biggest shortcomings was the lack of collaboration between citizen groups (the “grassroots”) and the policy research organizations that influence policymakers (the “grasstops”).

As WRI’s Manish Bapna points out, “A gap and lack of coordination between grassroots and grasstops institutions was evident during the Rio+20 summit. Advancing sustainable development in a meaningful way hinges on bridging this gap.” In other words, creating political will and building the constituency necessary to support the policy changes being advocated for requires collaboration between different segments of civil society.

Expanding Clean Energy Access

Bridging the grassroots-grasstops divide is especially necessary when it comes to clean energy access, an issue that received much attention at Rio+20 as a result of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4A) initiative. SE4A is a global initiative that aims to mobilize action from all sectors of society to support universal access to modern energy services, improve energy efficiency, and increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix. However, actually expanding clean energy access will require cooperation between think tanks, institutions, governments, and the citizens who are most in need of sustainable energy access.

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Rio+20 in the Rear View: Countries Commit to Improve Environmental Governance

More than a year ago, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon likened Rio+20 to a “free-market revolution for global sustainability,” calling for the event to inspire innovations that move the world toward more sustainable pathways to economic growth and development. Later in the year, U.N. Commission for Sustainable Development Chair, Sha Zukang, explained that the main difference of Rio+20 from earlier conferences “will be the sharp focus on renewing political commitments and on implementation…” Said Sha, “My message is: come to Rio ready to commit.”

The Rio+20 conference wrapped up on June 22nd, so the big question is: Did governments come through with these serious commitments?

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2012 年绿色气候基金工作重点

绿色气候基金(Green Climate Fund)第一次大会即将召开,而亚太地区以及拉丁美洲和加勒比海地区国家尚未提名其董事会成员。在过去长达两年的谈判中,绿色气候基金被寄予了向发展中国家提供大规模应对气候变化资金的厚望。然而如果不完成提名,董事会就无法启动“全球最主要的气候变化基金”这一重要项目的运作。

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