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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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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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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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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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La primera reunión del Fondo de Clima Verde (GCF) se acerca rápidamente y dos de los grupos regionales—Asia-Pacífico y América Latina y el Caribe—todavía no han nominado a sus representantes para la Junta. El GCF fue desarrollado durante los dos últimos años, y ahora se espera que ofrezca financiamiento a gran escala para ayudar a afrontar los efectos del cambio climático en países en vía de desarrollo. Sin terminar las nominaciones, la Junta no puede lanzar “el principal fondo global de finanzas para afrontar cambio climático.”

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Dans le cadre de la première réunion du Conseil du Fonds Vert pour le Climat (GCF) à venir, deux groupes régionaux – Asie/Pacifique et Amérique Latine/Caraïbes – devraient encore désigner leurs membres auprès du Conseil de Direction du GCF. Négocié au cours des deux dernières années, le GCF aura pour but de fournir aux pays en développement des financements substantiels en vue de lutter contre le changement climatique. La désignation de ces membres du Conseil de Direction est une condition essentielle au lancement opérationnel de ce Fonds « instrument central du financement sur les changements climatiques ».

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The main focus of the formal negotiations at Rio+20 is the outcome document, “The Future We Want.” The text, which was approved earlier this week and will likely be agreed upon by heads of state and U.N. officials, outlines a global framework for sustainable development and building a green economy. The text will have an impact on areas ranging from climate change to business to transportation, but the document’s biggest implications for governance is its references to Principle 10. By including this Principle and modest action, the outcome document offers glimmers of hope that citizens—including poor and marginalized communities across the globe—will no longer fall victim to environmentally degrading, exploitative development projects.

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Climate change may not have been on the official Rio+20 agenda, but that didn’t stop mayors from megacities around the world from making major headway on the issue. At the Rio+20 conference on Tuesday, the network of C40 city leaders announced new data showcasing the fact that these cities' initiatives could cut 1.3 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030.

At the decidedly urban event—perched in a colorful, high-tech auditorium miles from Rio+20’s official negotiations in the suburbs—Mayors Bloomberg (NYC), Paes (Rio de Janeiro), Park (Seoul), and Tau (Johannesburg)—as well as President Clinton (via video) and other leaders—made a compelling case for global action through cities. The mayors asserted that cities are proving to be the most effective government entities in addressing global climate change. In addition to announcing goals to reduce 1.3 billion metric tons of carbon emissions by 2030, leaders cited already-taken actions that will cut 248 million tons of greenhouse gases by 2020. The cities’ achievements contrast with international negotiations (and some national governments), which have been unable to agree to binding CO2 reduction targets.

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More than 50,000 international experts and leaders from government, NGOs, business, and other sectors are flocking to the United Nations' Rio+20 Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Taking place 20 years after the first Earth Summit, Rio+20 aims to address two major, globally important themes: building a green economy and establishing a framework for sustainable development that will decrease poverty, boost social equity, and protect the environment.

Rio+20's informal sessions kicked off last week and will continue right up until the official conference on June 20th-22nd. WRI's experts in business, climate, energy, forests, governance, transportation, and more are on the ground for all the action. (Check out a full list of official WRI events at Rio+20).

Before WRI's staff headed to Rio, I asked our experts the following question: What is significant about the Rio+20 conference, and what do you hope will come out of it?

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It's the final week of Rio+20, and WRI’s experts are on the ground for all the action. Each day, I’ll bring you highlights of what's on the horizon. Check out the details below on the exciting governance and other events happening tomorrow. And be sure to visit the full list of WRI events at Rio+20.

Today was an especially exciting day, as I woke up early to tour Rio de Janeiro's first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Corridor. I was joined by a few journalists, members from WRI's EMBARQ Center for Sustainable Transportation, and Rio transportation officials. After listening to so many talks about sustainability, it was great to see an example of this principle in action.

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With the first meeting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) fast approaching, two regional groups – Asia-Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean – have yet to nominate their Board members. Negotiated over the last two years, the GCF is expected to deliver large-scale finance to developing countries to address climate change. Without completing the nominations, though, the Board cannot begin the important task of making the “main global fund for climate change finance” operational.

Earlier this year, WRI and Climate Analytics facilitated a meeting in New York City of representatives from prospective Board member countries and others involved in the Fund’s design (see summary note). Participants exchanged ideas and perspectives on the Board’s program of work for 2012 and priorities for its first meeting. In addition to the basic administrative arrangements – like selecting a host country and establishing a secretariat – the Board needs to do the following in 2012:

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This is a two-part series on expanding access to clean energy in developing countries. Check out the first installment.

Accessing reliable energy is one of the greatest obstacles the developing world faces. Globally, about 1.3 billion people go without electricity, while 2.7 billion lack modern energy services. Providing these populations with energy is difficult—ensuring that generation occurs in environmentally sustainable and cost-effective ways makes the task significantly more challenging.

Expanding clean energy access has been a big part of the conversations during this week’s Asian Clean Energy Forum, organized by the Asian Development Bank and USAID in partnership with WRI. The talks mirror discussions that clean energy project developers and financiers had at a March 2012 workshop that was organized by WRI and the DOEN Foundation. Knowledge from this group and demonstration of their business models showcase the key elements to in implementing successful clean energy projects.

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This is a two-part series on expanding access to clean energy in developing countries. Tune in tomorrow for the second installment, which will highlight specific ways institutions can implement successful clean energy projects.

This week, key leaders from the policy, industry, government, NGO, banking, and civil society sectors are gathering in the Philippines for the 7th annual Asian Clean Energy Forum (ACEF). The event, organized by the Asian Development Bank and USAID, aims to foster discussions about how to scale up clean energy initiatives and curb climate change in Asian nations.

One the forum’s key themes is access to clean energy. In March 2012, the World Resources Institute and the DOEN Foundation also organized a workshop focused on innovative practices in providing access to clean energy in developing countries (check out the new video about this forward-thinking event). The workshop brought together an inspiring group of practitioners, project developers, and financiers who are all successfully implementing clean energy access projects in communities across the world. These practitioners are bringing efficient cook stoves to Africa, solar home systems to India, and small-scale hydro to Indonesia – reaching poor rural communities who are in great need of clean energy solutions.

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Two weeks ago, my girlfriend and I left Washington for two very different dates with international climate action. She headed to Indonesia to work with women farmers who are reintroducing native, drought-tolerant crops in order to build resilience to climate change. I, on the other hand, went to Bonn, Germany for the most recent round of UNFCCC climate change negotiations. The contrast could not have been starker. I spent 10 days watching with astonishment as countries bickered over committee chairs, agendas, and footnotes. There were highs in Bonn, too, as I outline below, but overall the atmosphere at this session was one of mistrust and reluctance.

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Last weekend, Jessica Yu's new water documentary "Last Call at the Oasis" took us on tour of the impacts water scarcity is creating around the globe, from the parched pastures of Australia's farmlands to the sewage-polluted banks of the Jordan River. This film shines a much-needed light on the various water challenges we all now face at a critical time. The numbers alone are eye-opening.

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At an official side event to the UNFCCC Bonn Climate Change Conference this week, C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40), ICLEI– Local Governments for Sustainability, the World Resources Institute (WRI), and partners released Pilot Version 1.0 of the Global Protocol for Community-Scale Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GPC). The release of the GPC Pilot Version 1.0 marks an unprecedented international consensus on the greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting and reporting framework for cities and communities. For the first time, cities around the world will be able to manage and reduce their GHG impacts through a method that’s both comprehensive and easy-to-use.

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The Wei River in west-central China is not just the largest tributary of the Yellow River, but it has also been a critical water source for communities for thousands of years. To manage this important resource, water authorities in China just announced that they plan to invest 6 billion yuan - more than US$950 million - this year to fight floods and pollution in the Wei.

This investment in water management comes after flooding on the Wei killed dozens of people and forced tens of thousands from their homes in the fall of 2011. On top of these terrible human costs come severe economic impacts. According to some estimates, the 2011 flooding cost China more than 6 billion U.S. dollars.

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As world leaders prepare to converge on Rio in June for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), civil society groups around the world are making demands of their leaders. In India, a broad coalition of environment and development NGOs are decrying state-sanctioned violence during hearings for major projects. In Colombia, civil society groups are calling for training of judges who often don’t understand environmental law. These are just a few of the many governance demands made by NGOs in more than 30 countries associated with the Access Initiative (TAI).

But, how will leaders react? Many may come to Rio+20 with commitments, but how can we hold them accountable to fulfill these commitments?

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