For so­lu­tions to cli­mate change, look at grass­root ac­tivists

A lead­ing cam­paigner for cli­mate jus­tice says help­ing them would be not char­ity but en­light­ened self-in­ter­est

Governance Now - - BOOK EXCERPT - Re­pro­duced with per­mis­sion of the pub­lisher.

in the past three years, global emis­sions of car­bon diox­ide from the burn­ing of fos­sil fu­els have lev­elled af­ter ris­ing for decades. More en­cour­ag­ingly, these emis­sions stayed flat while the global econ­omy and the gdps of ma­jor de­vel­oped and de­vel­op­ing na­tions grew. This is good news, a promis­ing in­di­ca­tion that our work in cli­mate mit­i­ga­tion is start­ing to pay off. But de­spite these pos­i­tive signs, an un­prece­dented global ef­fort is still re­quired to hold warm­ing to well be­low 2 de­gree c above prein­dus­trial lev­els and save Kiri­bati and the lives of mil­lions of vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple along the world’s coast­lines. even if all coun­tries met their tar­gets set out by the in­dcs in the Paris agree­ment, sci­en­tists pre­dict that we would still ex­pe­ri­ence a global tem­per­a­ture in­crease of more than 2.7 de­gree c.

We face dif­fi­cult truth: While Paris re­mains an un­prece­dented suc­cess, it is also a frag­ile foun­da­tion for ac­tion. The move­ment to ad­dress cli­mate change – and to pro­mote cli­mate jus­tice – must now shift to a new stage, with ur­gency and de­ter­mi­na­tion. All of us – govern­ments, both pow­er­ful and small, pros­per­ous and im­pov­er­ished; cities, com­mu­ni­ties, busi­ness lead­ers, and in­di­vid­u­als – bear re­spon­si­bil­ity. The threat to our planet may be dire, but the po­ten­tial op­por­tu­nity is also his­toric – the chance to stop an ex­is­ten­tial threat, to con­quer poverty and in­equal­ity, and to em­power those who have been left be­hind and ne­glected.

as we pur­sue this new stage of bold ac­tion, we will suc­ceed only if we rec­og­nize that the strug­gle to com­bat cli­mate change is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to tack­ling poverty, in­equal­ity, and ex­clu­sion. if we keep that link fore­most in our minds, our so­lu­tions will be more ef­fec­tive and more en­dur­ing. Eco­nomic growth built on sus­tain­able en­ergy and land use will safe­guard the lives of the most vul­ner­a­ble from the ef­fect of cli­mate change and of­fer best chance of lift­ing more com­mu­ni­ties out of poverty. if we give voice to those who have been marginal­ized and shut out, our poli­cies and projects – both pub­lic and pri­vate – will tackle the root causes of both cli­mate change and in­equal­ity. if we fol­low the ex­am­ple of those in­di­vid­u­als on the front lines of cli­mate change, we can find sil­ver lin­ings of re­silience and hope in the be­lief that we can ef­fect change. Such as Con­stance okol­let, who plants mango, avo­cado, and or­ange trees in her vil­lage in eastern uganda to stop top­soil ero­sion and to pre­vent flood­ing. Or Natalie isaacs, who brings her kitchen-ta­ble move­ment into homes across the world, in­spir­ing women to change their lives in small ways that will make a big im­pact on our global car­bon foot­print. or sharon Han­shaw, the ac­ci­den­tal ac­tivist, who used her voice to high­light the in­jus­tice that her marginal­ized com­mu­nity felt in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina.

i of­ten think of my fa­ther, a fam­ily doc­tor, whose life was trans­formed by the in­tro­duc­tion of ru­ral elec­tri­fi­ca­tion across Ire­land. I can still re­mem­ber the awe in my fa­ther’s voice as he de­scribed the rev­o­lu­tion that the mere flick of a switch brought to his daily prac­tice. Thanks to elec­tric light, my fa­ther no longer had to de­liver ba­bies or tend to bro­ken bones and wounds by can­dle­light. elec­tric pumps pro­vided fresh wa­ter di­rectly into his pa­tients’ homes, light­bulbs re­placed dull and dan­ger­ous oil lamps, ru­ral in­dus­try flour­ished, and the ra­dio ended so­cial iso­la­tion, bring­ing news

and en­ter­tain­ment to ru­ral fam­i­lies across the coun­try. But the harsh re­al­ity is that as many peo­ple across the world to­day live with­out elec­tric­ity as ex­isted in the world when Thomas edi­son first in­vented the light­bulb. With­out re­li­able ac­cess to elec­tric­ity, doc­tors can­not pro­vide clin­i­cal ser­vices af­ter sun­set. Pa­tients in the de­vel­op­ing world can­not ben­e­fit from X-rays, ul­tra­sound, or in­cu­ba­tors. Vac­cines and medicines can­not be stored, and doc­tors can­not com­mu­ni­cate with other health-care pro­fes­sion­als. nearly three bil­lion peo­ple still live with­out ac­cess to clean cook­ing. in­stead, to cook they rely on high-pol­lut­ing solid fu­els – wood, char­coal, an­i­mal dung, and crop waste – with fumes that kill more than four mil­lion peo­ple ev­ery year, mostly women and chil­dren in africa and asia, sicken mil­lions more.

Pro­vid­ing elec­tric­ity to the 1.3 bil­lion who lack ac­cess across the de­vel­op­ing world re­mains one of the big­gest chal­lenges on earth. de­vel­op­ment is not pos­si­ble with­out en­ergy, but we must fol­low the goals set out in the Paris agree­ment and cre­ate ac­cess to clean, af­ford­able, and sus­tain­able elec­tric­ity. in­spir­ing ex­am­ples of coun­tries in the de­vel­op­ing world spear­head­ing so­lu­tions in re­new­able en­ergy al­ready ex­ist. in­dia, the third-largest emit­ter of car­bon diox­ide, where 240 mil­lion peo­ple still lack proper ac­cess to elec­tric­ity, has the op­tion to use coal to rapidly ex­pand the coun­try’s elec­tri­cal grid, but the in­dian gov­ern­ment has com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing elec­tric­ity to all its peo­ple by 2030 by be­com­ing a global leader in so­lar power. This in­cludes an am­bi­tious tar­get to gen­er­ate 160 gi­gawatts of wind and so­lar power by 2022. Thanks to $1 bil­lion in sup­port from the World Bank, the in­dian gov­ern­ment will work to place rooftop so­lar pan­els on houses across the coun­try, which will pro­vide en­ergy for in­dian chil­dren to study at night and for fam­i­lies to re­frig­er­ate and cook their food.

in in­dia’s west­ern­most state of gu­jarat, women cook with clean fuel and power their cell phones us­ing so­lar roof pan­els. rachel Kyte, chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of Sus­tain­able En­ergy for all, and a spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the un sec­re­tary-gen­eral, says the tra­di­tional way of con­nect­ing peo­ple to the grid – via elec­tri­cal poles, cop­per wiring, and cheap coal – no longer ap­plies in this age of so­lar and clean power. “The cheaper, faster, and eas­ier way to pro­vide peo­ple in the de­vel­op­ing world with en­ergy is with off-grid re­new­able sys­tems,” rachel says. once vil­lages are elec­tri­fied and have ac­cess to clean cook­ing, they will have ac­cess to bet­ter health care and schools with elec­tric light where chil­dren can study for longer.

em­pow­er­ing in­di­vid­u­als with­out ac­cess to ba­sic ser­vices is the goal of sheela Pa­tel, who works to pro­vide wa­ter, san­i­ta­tion, and elec­tric­ity to the more than one bil­lion peo­ple liv­ing in slums around the world. sheela is chair of the slum/shack dwellers in­ter­na­tional (sdi), a net­work of com­mu­ni­ty­based or­gan­i­sa­tions of the ur­ban poor in thirty-three coun­tries and hun­dreds of cities and towns world­wide. given the shoddy con­struc­tion of build­ings in slums and in­for­mal set­tle­ments, these ar­eas tend to be hard­est hit by ex­treme weather events and face ex­tra ur­gency when it comes to cli­mate re­silience. in 2014, to help these com­mu­ni­ties bet­ter pre­pare for the in­evitable on­slaught of cli­mate change, sdi launched Know Your City Cam­paign to pro­file and map slum set­tle­ments and to use the data to up­grade the cities and man­age cli­mate risks. The data and map­ping al­lows slum dwellers to “re­block” their towns by phys­i­cally re­ar­rang­ing them­selves to cre­ate new streets and pub­lic spa­ces that al­low for the in­tro­duc­tion of elec­tric­ity and san­i­ta­tion, and that pro­vide each res­i­dence with an ad­dress. To date, sdi has mapped ap­prox­i­mately five hun­dred cities and more than seven thou­sand slums. across east, West, and south africa, sdi has helped in­tro­duce twenty-one en­ergy-ser­vice hubs across eight coun­tries that now pro­vide so­lar power to 15,000 house­holds. across the sdi net­work, the fed­er­a­tions have ex­tended clean wa­ter to ap­prox­i­mately 185,000 house­holds and built toi­lets for 220,000 more. By help­ing slum dwellers in Mon­rovia to remap their set­tle­ment, or vil­lage women in Gu­jarat to fix so­lar pan­els to their roofs, rachel and sheela demon­strate that many cli­mate change so­lu­tions can be found in the de­vel­op­ing world. We will all ben­e­fit if the peo­ples of the de­vel­op­ing world are sup­ported with in­cre­men­tal fi­nance and greater ac­cess to tech­nol­ogy, on a scale that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has of­ten promised but has rarely man­aged to de­liver. This isn’t aid or char­ity. In the fight to tackle cli­mate change, it is en­light­ened self-in­ter­est.

Mary Robin­son For­mer pres­i­dent of Ire­land

Cli­mate Jus­tice By Mary Robin­son Blooms­bury Pub­lish­ing, 176 pages, ₹599

Cour­tesy: sdi

Dhar­avi in Mumbai

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