France adopts a new Energy Path

Photo: FranceBleu

Photo: FranceBleu

While the first ever World Nuclear Energy Expo is taking place in Paris, the French Parliament adopted an energy law proposed by Environment Minister Ségolène Royal that will reduce the share of nuclear power from 75% to 50% by 2025 as promised by Francois Hollande during his election campaign. The project was largely adopted thanks to the support of the socialists, the radical left and the green party. The law contains several interesting measures that should help to reduce energy bills through energy efficiency while creating long-lasting green jobs and improving the overall well-being of the french and of the climate given the ambitious target of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030!

More Efficient Buildings  

Buildings are responsible for 43% of the energy used in France and deserve their reputation for being “des passoires thermiques” (thermal colanders). Prioritizing better insulation is therefore prioritized and will receive a 30% tax credit along with preferential interest loans for building related efficiency measures.

Promoting Renewable Energy

Photo from Murray Brown

Photo from Murray Brown

Once we have stopped wasting energy thanks to efficient buildings we cant think about clean and renewable generation options. The law projects to increase wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass generation to 23% in 2020 and 32% in 2030.

Electric Cars and bikes

6a00d83451b18a69e2017eeac264b0970dFrance will promote the electrification of cars and cleaner vehicles for state agencies, rentals and taxis. There will be help and financial incentives for individuals to buy electric / less polluting cars. Up to €10,000 will be available to replace a diesel car by an electric one. Reducing air pollution is one of the targets and will be most welcome, especially in urban areas.

A very interesting measure will be to provide a payment to people using their bikes to go to work. The amount would be €0.25 for each km. Talk about innovative thinking!

No more plastic bags and throw away plastic dishes & utensils 

Some 5 billion throw-away plastic bags are distributed in shops and 12 billion “fruit and vegetable” bags annually. They will no longer be allowed. Same for plastic plates and utensils. One has to look on the side of the roads in France to know where a good portion of these bags end up.

Trash Reduction Targets

By 2025, the volume of trash is to be reduced by 50% and a recycling rate of 55% should be attained. Waste to energy solutions will also be encouraged.

Green Jobs 

With these measures France aims to create 100,000 green jobs over 3 years. Comparing with the 400,000 green jobs created by the Germans, this appears to be a modest objective.  This is an area the trade unions have been pushing for because the french were far behind in terms of developing the skills and qualifications for jobs in this sector.

Preparing for the 2015 Climate Conference

Given the €70 billion energy bill of the French in 2013, any meaningful reduction would be most welcome. The law is also a timely reminder that in 2015 Paris will host the climate conference that aims to limit average global temparatures at +2 degrees Celsius. France will try to do its share by cutting its emissions by 40% by 2030. 

Commendable effort for President Hollande and Environment Minister Ségolène Royal that should be recognized and celebrated. Let’s hope that nothing gets lost in the  implementation phase.

Why older people suffer excessively in Environmental Disasters

To raise awareness about the growing frequency and destruction of natural disasters, in 2009, the United Nations designated October 13 as the International Day for Disaster Reduction. This year, the focus is on older people who suffer disproportionately when disasters hit.

Picture1In 2005, 75% of the fatalities of Hurricane Katrina were over 60 while they made up only 15% of the New Orleans population. One-third of the victims of the Haiyan typhoon that hit the Philippines in 2013 were over 60, even though they represented less then 10% of the population.

Globally, our vulnerability to disasters is increasing from several factors. Firstly, as a result of climate change there is an intensification of extreme climate and disaster events. It is estimated that the number of natural disasters has increased from 200 to 400 per year in the last 20 years. Secondly, we are increasingly exposed to the impacts of such occurrences due to a growing world population and the concentration of people and infrastructure in exposed locations (on coastlines for example).

JOINT TASK FORCE (JTF) KATRINABut older populations are particularly at risk. While the elderly live longer in many parts of the world it does not mean that they are in good health. With advancing age they increasingly face health conditions that reduce their mobility. 42% of Americans over 65 have a functional limitation that makes it difficult to evacuate them quickly. Health problems and the disruption of medical care can also be fatal in the aftermath of disasters. Around 100 million elderly people around the world live in abject poverty. This is  not only a developing country problem. It is estimated that 1 out of 6 elderly Americans lives in poverty. Many older people live alone, tend to be poor and isolated, and are therefore the most vulnerable.

An Ageing World

Picture2Globally, some 870 million people, 12% of the world population, are over 60. It is predicted that by 2030, there will be more then 2 billion people over 60. “Older people bear the initial brunt of disasters often because they cannot flee,” said Toby Porter, from the HelpAge International, an international NGO that works to help address the challenges faced by older people.

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Margaret Wahlström (ISDR) and Adam Koniuszewski

Margareta Wahlström, United Nations Office for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), said: “The older person is often invisible in our communities until they show up in the mortality figures after a disaster event. Demographic change means we are living in an ageing world. It is important to include older persons in disaster management for both their improved protection and to make full use of their experience, skills and knowledge in support of that”.

An Age of Opportunity 

While it is important to include the needs of older people in planning and preparing for disasters there may be a silver lining in involving them in the overall process. Older people have knowledge and experience that can be put to use for the benefit of the impacted communities and society as a whole. It would be a shame to let this potential go to waste.

UNISDR is the UN office dedicated to disaster risk reduction. It is led by Margareta Wahlström, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and works to “substantially reduce disaster losses, in lives and in the social, economic and environmental assets of communities and countries.”

Sport can’t stop Tanks but it can build Bridges for Peace

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela recognized that through sport, he could reconcile a nation divided by racial segregation since colonial times. At rugby games, black spectators were only allowed in the standing sections of the stadium to watch an all white national team. Many viewed the “Springboks” as a symbol of segregation and called for Mandela to form a new mixed-race team. Madiba (Mandela) felt such retribution would aggravate white South-Africans and the historic 1995 victory of the “Springboks” over the New Zealand “All Blacks” became the symbol of a nation that was healing its wounds and redefining itself as the “Rainbow nation” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu).

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Wilfried Lemke

Last week, the United Nations “Special Advisor on Sport for Development and Peace”, Mr. Wilfried Lemke, visited Krakow on the special invitation of the Mayor to give a lecture on the wider role of sport in society and to meet the kids from the Siemacha Association that provides daily after-school education to 2,000 children and uses sport as a pillar in its approach to youth development.

The role of Sport in Education

Used properly, physical activity and sport can play an important role in the healthy development of kids, it can help build confidence, self-esteem and pave the way for healthy lifestyles in adulthood. Through sport, kids can learn important values like fair play, tolerance, trust, discipline, leadership and teamwork. But a proper approach is essential. In the typical gym classes, the selection of sports teams where the best players are chosen first while the weakest are selected last has left many kids stigmatized.

Similarly, over-emphasis on “winning” undermines other competitors. For all kids to learn and benefit from winning and losing there must be respect for the loser and fair congratulations for the winner. The first thing that should take place after a match is for the teams to congratulate each other with sincerity, respect and appreciation. This is particularly important for young people. From the youngest age they can learn about the values of life and develop positive relationships through sport. This way, sport can become a powerful tool to empower people, promote acceptance for all and transform community attitudes to foster understanding and respect between people.

Sport for Peace

In the spirit of Mandela’s Springbok experience, grass-roots sports initiatives are taking place around the world to build bridges between communities that otherwise find it difficult to cooperate. Through football, Arabs and Jews have the opportunity to regularly play sports together. Similar projects are underway to revive diplomatic relations between North and South Korea through “football diplomacy”. In a world where international relations are increasingly tense and conflictual, we need such constructive grass-roots initiatives where competition can take place in a spirit of respect and fair play, for friendships to develop and bridges of peace appear.

Promoting Inclusiveness

Siemachabasen

Swimming pool managed by the Siemacha Association

Oftentimes, especially in developing countries, the availability of sports options for kids is lacking, particularly for girls. Similarly, the inclusion of people with disabilities is a problem even in developed countries. This has serious consequences because physical education is critical to provide children with survival skills in many parts of the world. Few realize that many children do not know how to swim and that, as a result 300,000 children, mainly girls, drown each year in Asia. Mandatory swimming lessons would be an important step in reducing child mortality. Siemacha does its share in this area by 70,000 swimming lessons/activities to 5,600 kids annually. The efforts of other organizations like UNICEF, UK Sport and the International Swimming Federation (FINA) in this area should also be encouraged.

piotr_pawlowski

Piotr Pawlowski

Also, “adapting existing sports facilities to the needs of people with disabilities will not only improve access but also help the integration of persons with disabilities in their communities” according to Piotr Pawlowski, President of Integracja, the association that represents 4 million disabled persons in Poland.

Role Models

Athletes, professional athletes in particular, can become important role models for young people. Millions of African kids want to become the next Eto’o but only one or two will. It is important for athletes to be responsible and to embody the values that make them worthy of such admiration. Unfortunately many professional athletes lack the maturity and education to properly manage their own lives. Despite earning more in one season than most people will earn in their lives, 78% of NFL players and 60% of NBA players will be bankrupt within five years of retirement and oftentimes their behavior results in them making the front page of media for all the wrong reasons.

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Robert Korzeniowski, Adam and Margo Koniuszewski

Fortunately there are exceptions. Four-time Olympic race-walking champion Robert Korzeniowski embodies the values that young people can look up to. In addition to being an ambassador for the UN World Food Program to raise awareness about the problem of hunger in the world, he is also an inspirational speaker and runs his foundation to promote sport in Poland.

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Dariusz Dudek, Dominik Rogoz, Maciek Malski, Margo Koniuszewski, Rev Andrzej Augustynski, Wilfried Lemke, Adam Koniuszewski, Jerzy Dudek

Similarly former professional football players Jerzy Dudek and his brother Dariusz have committed himself to helping young people develop themselves through football. Together they run the Siemacha AS Progress Academy where over 500 kids learn football.

A time for Solutions

At a time when the tensions and conflicts are on the rise and global issues seem overwhelming, there is more then ever a need for partnerships and solutions that promote multiple objectives. From developing positive values, goodwill and cooperation at all levels to improving inclusion and helping ease tensions and conflicts between communities and nations, a constructive approach to sport can provide such a platform. The visionary approach of the United Nations when it comes using sports as a tool for social progress and peace should be recognized and celebrated.

Chapeau-bas! Mr Lemke for your extraordinary commitment to this noble cause.

Margo and Adam Koniuszewski, initiators of the visit of Mr. Lemke to Krakow would like to thank our honorary guest Mr. Wilfried Lemke and his team at the UNOSDP as well as the sponsors and partners that have made these events possible: The City of Krakow, Arena Krakow, the German Embassy, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, BMW PolandHotel Stary, Hotel Rubinstein, and, Pawel Widel from GM Poland and Ela Raczkowska from Vital Voices. Special thanks also go to Robert Korzeniowski and Tim Runzheimer, General Manager of Nike Poland, for their presence. 

 

 

 

Road Safety: Is the Road Rage against Cyclists Justified?

amsterdam-cycle-chic

2014 will be remembered by cyclists as exceptional in terms of road rage incidents. Examples abound but some stand out. When I was in Montreal a few weeks ago a young driver posted a film on his Facebook page of himself screaming obscenities at a group of cyclists. He later removed it but it is still available here:

English translation: …and after that they wonder why they get hit, like squirrels crossing the street, look at that, you’re in my way, GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT! it is like we are following a group of ducks crossing the street, yes, that’s right, after that you (cyclists) can complain that car drivers are all crazy in their heads…

One could easily dismiss this as an isolated incident but it is unfortunately not the case. This July, Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy implied in his column that it is acceptable to run over cyclists: “It’s a $500 fine for a motorist to hit a bicyclist in the District, but some behaviors are so egregious that some drivers may think it is worth it.”

But the grand prize goes to a Laura Weintraub, a reserve police officer in California that posted a video on her YouTube channel of how she “hates bicyclists, every single one of them” and wants “to run them over”. The film ends with a tragic picture of a car crashing into a cycling peloton during a race in Mexico (2008) with the caption: “Like you’ve never thought about it…”

Laura Weintraub video caption: "like you've never thought about it..."

Laura Weintraub video caption: “Like you’ve never thought about it…”

The original video was removed but can be found here. After being fired by the police department Laura went through an awakening and posted this interesting response:

Research confirms the negative attitudes of drivers towards cyclists (e.g. cyclists are unpredictable, repeatedly overtaking them is frustrating, etc.). But are they  justified?

Is the Road Rage Against Cyclists Justified? 

The “Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine” carried out a study with cyclists wearing helmet-mounted video cameras. Analysis of the films helped determine the circumstances of accidents. In the vast majority of cases (89%) cyclists were riding safely and abiding by the law.  Car drivers were at fault for 87% of the collisions. The most common cause being drivers turning across the path of a cyclist – generally without  slowing down or braking, implying the driver did not see the bike. 4WD drivers were the most likely not to see cyclists.

What Can be Done? 

The main recommendation is for car drivers to follow the law… Drivers would often not indicate their intention to turn (Australian Law requires to indicate it 5 seconds before turning) and often lack awareness of cyclists alongside and behind them. Another study in the UK provides similar findings: 68% of collisions with cyclists were caused by drivers mainly because they fail to see them, drive too fast or carelessly, fail to judge the cyclist’s speed or path, or overtake to close to the cyclist.

Mario Cipollini

Mario Cipollini

They highlight the importance for cyclists of anticipating the actions of drivers and their ability to maneuver around vehicles that suddenly change course as a major factor in avoiding collisions. Male cyclists traveling at higher speeds were more successful at that then slower moving female cyclists. But even the most experienced riders can’t always escape. Just last week former world cycling champion Mario Cipollini was seriously hit by a car during a training ride. Several other stars like Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and star-sprinter Mark Cavendish also suffered injuries in similar circumstances. This prompted the British Cycling federation to call for the government to put cycling safety at the heart of transport policy.

Proper biking infrastructure was also a factor. In the study, cycling lanes were often disjointed or ended abruptly with no viable option for the cyclist to continue.

Cycling Lessons for Motorists?  

Education for a better awareness by drivers comes up repeatedly as a necessary pre-requisite to improve the safety of cyclists and all road users. An interesting suggestion is to  change the driving tests to include not only more instruction on cycling but also a live cycling module where new drivers would have to pass a cycling test before they are allowed to drive a car. British time-trial cyclist Michael Hutchison says this would “help people realize the dangers that cyclists are in and their vulnerability – something that a lot of people do not realize”. This echoes the words of Laura Weintraub following her epiphany on the importance of “understanding what it is like to share the road from the point of view of cyclists” and that her experience riding a bike was “eye opening”. This is also consistent with research about the negative attitudes of drivers that are not cyclists which make roads more dangerous for everyone. Such measures would help raise understanding, empathy, and the realization that cyclists are also fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.

IMG_2955About the author: Adam Koniuszewski is a driver and a cyclist with experience riding in North America, the Caribbean, Western and Central Europe, Asia and Australia. He is also a husband, a son, a brother and an uncle.

Climate Change: A new Era of Global Vulnerability

2013 was the worst year ever in terms of insurance losses from extreme weather in Canada: torrential rains and flooding caused over $1.7 billion in insured damage in Alberta while flash floods in Toronto cost $940 million in payouts. But with over $5 billion of damages each, the 2001/02 coast-to-coast drought and the 1998 ice storms are the most expensive disasters in Canadian history. So extreme weather events associated with climate change are already impacting Canada and are expected to intensify in coming years. Clearly, Canada is highly exposed to the impacts of climate change and yet it ranks low in terms of vulnerability. How can this be?

Developing Countries Disproportionately Impacted

Screenshot 2014-08-11 18.40.43

When looking at climate change vulnerability we must consider not only exposure but also sensitivity and the ability to adapt to those consequences. While Canada is increasingly experiencing these impacts, like most rich and developed countries it has a high adaptive capacity that helps mitigate the outcomes. So even the most devastating events, despite their substantial impacts, have left Canada’s infrastructure largely intact. Hence, despite their climate change exposure, the overall vulnerability of Canada, the United States and Europe is low compared to the regions of extreme risk in Africa, Asia and in Central America. To illustrate, the President of Honduras said Hurricane Mitch in 1998 had set the country back 50 years in terms of economic development (1.5 million homeless – 20% of the population, 70% of the transportation and water infrastructure was damaged, etc). This is why developing countries will disproportionately feel the effects of climate change.

A New Era of Global Vulnerability

CCVI_JP

In 1800, only 3% of the world population lived in cities. The proportion is now 50% and growing – especially in developing countries. Many of the fastest growing megacities with the highest concentration of infrastructure and people are in “extreme risk” locations. A quarter of the world population lives in low elevation coastal areas that are at risk from the consequences of sea level rise. We are entering a new era of global vulnerability in terms of human lives and infrastructure.

Preparedness is Key

bigstock-emergency-preparedness-checkli-24168524Emergency preparedness is a key factor in reducing risk and mitigating against the consequences of natural hazards. Developed and developing countries must work together to reduce the exposure of the most vulnerable and help prepare for future climate impacts.

Other resources

For anyone interested in learning more about this topic natural disasters the McGill University online course is highly rated and strongly recommended.

ISO, Standards & Climate Change

the-1999-NASA-Mars-Climate-OrbiterIt is hard to overstate the importance of standards. In many ways, they represent the essential ingredient that allows us to function. But famous disasters remind us that we cannot take this for granted. In 1999, NASA lost its $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft after a 10-month, 400-million kilometer journey to Mars because some of its engineers used the metric system while the others used the imperial measurement system. As a result, when the spacecraft entered the Mars atmosphere at an altitude of 60km, instead of the 150km required, it disintegrated. The disaster cost $330 million, caused major embarrassment to NASA and a serious blow to the American space program.

IMG_0830This is why the work of the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to develop and promote standards is so important and why I was pleased to learn about ISO’s growing commitment to climate change and why I am happy to join ISO’s NEXTGen Global Climate Change initiative for young professionals from around the world. This 6-week program is focused on what needs to be done, how international standards can help and how young professionals can get involved. The global kickoff took place last week (August 6, 2014) with an online Google+ Hangout that is available on YouTube for those who missed it.

While the project is forward-looking, a historical perspective on how standards can help reduce carbon emissions is useful and the success story of energy efficiency standards for household appliances is a case in point. Let’s look at refrigerators for illustration. Why? Because they are constantly on and typically represent the most energy hungry item in a home.

Between the 1950-70’s refrigerators have more then doubled in size but their energy use increased almost fivefold. How is this possible? Marketing departments wanting to increase the available inside space decided to cut down on insulation. A product “innovation” that caused skyrocketing energy consumption. Countrywide, this trend would have required 175 GW (gigawatt) of electricity today. But thanks to almost four decades of energy efficiency standards, America now needs less then 15 GW. The difference represents the equivalent of eliminating 400 large coal power plants.

Need for StandardsContext is important. The 1973-74 oil-crisis saw barrels of oil go from $3 to $12 and energy efficiency became recognized as critical for energy independence and national security. California introduced the first wave of mandatory efficiency standards in 1978 and over the years, efficiency standards became the driving force for innovation and continue to do so. Initial objections by industry of rising prices and adverse economic impacts did not materialize. To the contrary, prices fell by two-thirds and industry welcomed new standard as an opportunity to market improvements and boost sales. This process of continuous improvement has helped innovation, competition and profitability while creating jobs. The new products are not only cheaper for consumers they also offer a better environmental performance which is a win-win for everyone.

As chair of the ISO Climate Change Technical Committee (ISO/TC 207/SC 7), Tom Baumann is well aware of the importance of standards to help corporations manage their greenhouse gas emissions for environmental stewardship but also to manage risk and improve business performance. This is why over 3,000 corporations and 800 institutional investors with assets under management of $92 trillion are already partnering with the Carbon Disclosure Project for their carbon footprint management. Blackberry’s Kelly Killby agrees that ISO standards have helped improve environmental and business performance. Thanks to the implementation of ISO standards, Blackberry has reduced waste to landfills by 90% in 2013 and reinvested the cost savings into other sustainability initiatives.

Climate change represents the defining challenge of our generation and will require the cooperation of all sectors of modern society: private enterprise, government and civil society. Given that it is crosscutting, it will mean that all professions will have to work together with a common sense of purpose and a shared understanding of what needs to be achieved. We know that reducing emissions is possible at the individual, organization and community levels. According to Johnathan Fung, moderator of the ISO Climate Change Group, the challenge now is how to scale-up solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation for regional and global impact. A process in which standards will play a critical role. This will be one of the objectives of NextGen during the next six weeks.  Young professionals from around the world are most welcome to participate and contribute.

Find out more at: ISO NEXTGen, on Facebook and check out the Webinar.

More on this soon.

2014 Caux Dialogue on Land Degradation

The latest edition of the Caux Dialogue on “Land and Security” took place last week bringing together leading experts and practitioners from around the world to discuss the geopolitics of land degradation, roadblocks to progress and also the numerous success stories of restored lands and retreating deserts. The focus this year was on the scaling up of solutions.

A long History of Land Degradation

easterislandheads1Land degradation is not a new problem. Great civilizations disappeared because they damaged the soil that sustained them. The most famous story is probably that of the Easter Island settlers from Polynesia who raised 887 giant Moai statues weighing up to 80 tons! but sealed their fate by deforesting the island.

1935 Dust Storm in Texas

1935 Dust Storm in Texas

More recent examples of the devastating consequences of land degradation include the dust bowls of the 1930s in the American Midwest. A combination of plowing the prairies for agriculture and prolonged droughts caused massive dust storms on the Great Plains from Texas to Canada. The erosion of the topsoil from 30 million hectares of farmland destroyed the agricultural industry in Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado, made 500,000 people homeless and caused the largest migration in American history. Some 3.5 million people moved out of the Plains states during that period.

A Convention to Combat Desertification

Cracked-soil-466In the 1970s and 80s, the African drylands suffered from severe droughts that caused repeated crop failures and mass starvation. African nations pressed the global community to take action ahead of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, which led to the Convention to Combat Desertification that came out of the Rio Conference along with the conventions on climate change and biodiversity. But while there is a growing awareness about the climate and biodiversity crises, land degradation receives little attention. This is surprising because land plays an important role for carbon sequestration and its degradation directly impacts biodiversity. We will not be able to resolve the climate and biodiversity crises unless we restore degraded lands.

A Global Challenge

Today 1.5 billion people in 168 countries are impacted by land degradation. Desertification is advancing around the world. But land degradation is not a fatality, it is the result of human activity:

1) Overgrazing (35%) – especially in Africa

2) Deforestation (30%) – especially in Asia and South America

3) Poor agricultural practices (28%) – particularly in North America

Overgrazing, deforestation and poor farming practices expose the soil to water and wind erosion, which leads to desertification. Meanwhile, mass irrigation practices cause the salinization of soils that can no longer sustain vegetation. In turn, the lack of soil cover increases erosion and disrupts the water cycle.

zs-5We know that healthy soils are critical for food security and that soil regeneration is a slow process. It takes 100 years on average to generate a millimeter of soil. And yet, we continue to mismanage soils and degrade lands in every region of the world and lose 12 million hectares (or 1%) of the planet’s fertile soils every year as a result.

Impact of Climate Change

Climate change exacerbates the problem. According to the UK Meteorological office, climate change contributed to the 2011 East African drought that killed 100,000 and pushed millions into starvation. This is why Monique Barbut, the new Executive Secretary of the Convention to Combat Desertification, has vowed to work closely with Christiana Figueres from the Climate Change Convention. More cooperation is expected as we approach the Lima climate change conference in December and the awaited Paris climate talks in 2015.

Land Degradation and Security

_70816628_syria_rtrWhile the Syrian crisis has been receiving a lot of press, few know that since 2006 the country has been suffering from one of the worst droughts in its history. The situation was aggravated by the misguided policies of the Assad regime that subsidized water-intensive crops (wheat and cotton) and the use of mass irrigation technologies. This resulted in disastrous crop failures with the loss of livestock and livelihoods that forced 1.5 million to migrate to cities in order to survive. This was a major factor of instability and social unrest that contributed to the Syrian crisis.

The importance of climate and environmental factors, including water and food scarcity, are often underestimated when analyzing the causes of tensions and conflicts. With the growing impacts from climate change, droughts and land degradation on water and food availability, we will have to reconsider their importance as a threat multiplier and as a significant factor in conflicts around the world.

Solutions are Available

And yet, every day innovative solutions are being deployed around the world and degraded lands are being restored – often through low-tech cost-effective solutions. Last year I reported on how Tony Rinaudo was bringing back life to trees and vegetation with a pocket-knife and how Allan Savory uses cattle to restore degraded lands. 2011 Caux participant Yacoubé Sawadogo, also known as the the “man who stopped the desert”, has re-greened areas of Northern Burkina Faso using such methods where international institutions and scientists had failed to make a difference:

This year again numerous solutions were discussed – from permaculture to water catchment with examples from coming Somalia to Sudan. But our first priority should be to stop land degradation from occurring in the first place. Avoiding damage is much easier, faster and cheaper then restoration. We urgently need to stop the misguided policies that lead to deforestation, biofuels that compete with food and carry an unfavorable footprint, and the wasteful mass-irrigation techniques for crops that are not suited for local conditions.

Massive Scaling up of Solutions

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2014 Caux Panel on “Scaling Up the Solutions”

Dialogue convener Martin Frick and Ian Johnson from the Club of Rome agree that: “if land degradation and desertification are to be slowed down and reversed, we need to urgently and massively scale up the solutions”. A major obstacle remains the lack of media coverage and low public interest. Policy makers and political leaders do not fully comprehend the scale of the problem, its implications in terms of security and the urgent need for restoration. “Educating policy makers, the media and the wider public” is a top priority for Jakob Rhyner, Vice-Rector of the United Nations University and while one can find comfort in knowing that  organizations like Ramsar (Convention on Wetlands), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the International Migration Organization, the UN Environmental Programme, IUCN and Green Cross International are working collaboratively to raise the profile of land degradation as a major threat to security, the political will to provide serious support for the large scale deployment of solutions is still missing. Even more worrying is the continuation of policies and practices that result in land degradation around the world and the powerful influence of vested interests that work to maintain the status quo. The Caux Dialogue continues to be a leading platform for constructive engagement on this issue. Let’s hope the call will be heard ahead of the Lima climate talks this December.