“The Climate Crisis is Madness”

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At the Warsaw Climate Change Conference, known as COP19, the Philippines’ chief negotiator, Yeb Saño (@yebsano), made an impassioned plea to his fellow delegates, saying that “The Climate crisis is madness…Warsaw must deliver on enhancing ambition and should muster the political will to address climate change…If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not here, then where?”

To learn how you can help with relief efforts in the Philippines, click here

Representatives from around the world gathered in Poland November 11-24 for COP19 just as we were beginning to learn of the toll that Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) took when it ripped through the Philippines. Its devastation spotlights the glaring vulnerabilities that face the extreme poor, which are exacerbated by the ripple effects of climate change.

Though you cannot attribute one calamitous storm like Haiyan to global warming, such extreme weather events, rising sea levels (which could consume island nations), and changing rainfall patterns (disrupting traditional agricultural practices) are a reality of climate change according to NASA; and the World Health Organization describes the “overwhelmingly negative” effects on health, among which “diarrhoeal diseases, malnutrition, malaria and dengue…are expected to worsen as the climate changes.”

COP19 opened on November 11th to continue the negotiations on how to the global community will deal with climate change; it is part of the process for negotiating a deal to be signed in 2020 regarding this pressing issue. Among the items to discuss was a $100 billion green climate fund, which would be used to achieve UN-set goals to lower carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and boost climate change adaptation among developing countries.

Observing the conference proceedings, the media offered little hope that COP19 would afford much more success than its predecessors have. With three days remaining, an article in the Guardian, summarized the expected outcomes as such: “there is as yet no draft text for an agreement, no consensus on what a new deal should involve, or what legal form it should take.”

“Warsaw climate conference produces little agreement” was the headline in The Washington Post on Friday; however, just 36 hours later, the delegates hashed out an agreement that would put the global community on track for the 2015 conference in Paris where an agreement on global emissions is supposed to be resolved. Countries have until the first quarter of 2015 to publish their plans for cutting emissions. We eagerly await results from this final day of negotiations.

At our 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit in the Philippines last month, we held two workshops specifically dealing with the issue sustainable and green energy for the poor. These workshops were “Microfinance Goes Green: Energy Inclusion to Help Alleviate Poverty” and “Partnerships in Energy Lending: Making the Business Case.”

Speakers in “Microfinance Goes Green” told of their organizations’ initiatives to provide low-cost, efficient, and sustainable green energy options to poor families for an energy inclusion revolution. Read the full workshop summary here.

Hermat Lamba, COO of Prakti Design and Orville in India in addition to Ashden, addressed the idea that the microfinance industry can help to advance energy inclusion.

We have active goals [in green microfinance] that require micro-revolution…That revolution is going to change the whole paradigm of energy in the coming years or the next two decades.

As facilitators from our community, we need to take initiative with technology and bring the focus on the ecosystem, on the promotion of environmentally friendly tools for development. We are building an ecosystem for these micro-energy entrepreneurs who can back that ecosystem.

In Kenya, for example, we have a unit that was triggered by the need for energy. Some 80% of our population is poor, and 80% of that population is outside the energy [grid], [living] below the poverty line. Now this unit was to provide energy as well as provide organic fertilizers which directly helped the agriculture. Through microfinance, energy was provided, health was taken care of, and financing became available. We are now trying to see if we can replicate this.

Francesca Randazzo, project manager at ADA in Luxembourg, said their energy initiatives serve as a pilot project to test if they could advocate for MFIs to give people access to innovative green energy solutions.

We started in Peru, looking into how the MFIs identify energy and energy economics and tried to develop financial services that could help people access energy equipment…

And, then we decided to try another model with microfinance networks as part of the new ADA strategies… The goal is that networks will build their capacity and engineering skills regarding energy products with the skills and knowledge we can impart. It is more like a leverage—by empowering those within the networks—and we will use that impact in the microfinance sector. So this is now the approach that we are working and testing with the MCPI.

Illac Diaz (@illacdiaz), executive director of MyShelter Foundation in the Philippines, led the “Liter of Light” project to teach Filipinos to construct a simple and clean device using a plastic bottle, water, and glue to light up the insides of urban slum dwellings without electricity.

Let us begin basically with the question for solar access. It is important but it is difficult to repair [solar panels]. It looks good at the start but no one is trained to handle these. Then after 3 ½ years, these things become junk.

How can we get something more local, where the women will assemble most of the components, where we just bring in the most minimal like the solar cell? We wanted something where we could take a plastic bottle of water, stick it into the roof, and there would be light.

What has been the result? In the past 20 months, we started with 0 and now we have 350,000 solar volts around the world in 15 countries, going on 20 countries by the end of this year. We built a community solar [energy] system out of a simple copper plate and some easily available electric units. The solar cell and the LED lights are widely available. And though these may break, they can actually repair it since they built it.

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