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Green Neighbourhoods as a Service

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Green Neighbourhoods as a Service

A Bankers without Boundaries made a proposed mechanism to address the challenge of scaling energy efficiency measures in the urban built environment. It is suggested in this article as a Green Neighbourhoods as a Service for all concerned a welcome step in the right direction.

The above image is for illustration and is of Climate-KIC.

Reducing net energy consumption in the built environment is one of the most significant and hardest problems for cities to solve to meet net zero carbon timelines. In our experience, typically, these emissions contribute 30-40% to a city’s total CO2 emissions. In this article we look at why it is so challenging and propose a mechanism to kickstart retrofit at scale.

A Challenging Problem

Reducing emissions in the built environment is an extremely complex problem with multiple components. Many of these complexities arise from an underlying assumption, in nearly all jurisdictions, that solving the problem is the responsibility of individual property owners. Multiple individual actors must make independent decisions leading to a fragmented response to the challenge.

Even ignoring this fragmentation, targeting individual property owners with economic incentives alone is failing anyway due to two interlinked problems

  1. The value of returns (energy savings) is not connected to the capital spend. Returns occur over many decades and a building owner must be confident that they will enjoy those benefits for at least 30 years to have a hope of creating a positive economic case. Most building owners cannot commit to owning the property over that period; therefore, the net present value of energy savings is undervalued by the capital spender relative to its true worth.
  2. Even assuming the building owner can commit to 30 years of ownership, the economics of delivering deep decarbonisation in a way that is attractive to citizens (Deep, Community Retrofit) has poor economic returns (negative IRR) even assuming a 30-year investment period.

Figure 1: Not all retrofit is created equal

If economic rationale alone is not enough, decision making and financing must balance competing goals – economics, decarbonisation, community benefits and social & health impact, which requires a broader viewpoint than an individual building owner.

As a result, current solutions, which are frequently designed to be adopted by property owners, are failing. This has led to the paralysis we see in the market with negligible levels of building level improvements which improve energy efficiency (“retrofit”) occurring, despite various subsidy schemes being offered and financing costs being at historically low levels for some time.

Most existing solutions start with a premise that since it is down to individual property owners to commission work on their own properties, it is also therefore assumed that the energy and maintenance savings benefit accrues to them too and that this should form the economic rationale to carry out the project.

Even after discounting other barriers to entry (complexity of deciding what work to commission, project managing multiple trades, applying for subsidies, the misalignment of landlord and tenant incentives in the rental sector) the economic returns are not high for ambitious retrofit and require the property owner to remain in the property for decades to realise them. Therefore, the net present value of these savings is not being leveraged to solve the problem in the most effective way.

The sheer scale of retrofit that is required to improve inefficient buildings is also often touted as a problem. The costs of an ambitious retrofit programme are huge and go well beyond the public purse. To compound the problem the energy savings that can be achieved are not high enough for traditional financing on its own. To achieve this scale public finance will need to be blended with private capital in some way to provide the level of finance needed to achieve the scale required. In addition, retail investment and citizen engagement need to play their part in the equation to increase visibility and feasibility.

An interlinking issue for many countries is that of regional inequalities. Governments, such as the UK, have made levelling up regional differences a key policy initiative. Existing retrofit plans stand to exacerbate this issue. In the UK for example average house prices in London are £661k, but only £200k in the North East and North West. Average loan to value ratio is 82%. Retrofit costs are broadly uniform across the country, so a deep retrofit at £40k would equate to 6% of property value or one third of average equity in London, but 20% of property value or 110% of equity in the North. Clearly a policy led strategy that forces retrofit debt onto house owners would be deeply regressive for the North.

Any scalable solution must address the fragmentation of the problem which arises from individual decision making, allowing more systemic decision making to happen, economies of scale to materialise and progress to finally be made. This requires a fundamentally different approach.

Significant Opportunity

There is also real opportunity in this space.

Figure 2: Opportunities

Green Neighbourhoods as a Service – A Proposed Solution

To address the mismatch between ownership of the capital spend and of the value of benefits, tackle the fragmentation issue, overcome barriers to entry, allow aggregation of projects and matching of different types of finance that will be needed, we propose a new more centralised model which we call Green Neighbourhoods as a Service (GNaaS).

GNaaS envisages the establishment of a central entity in a city or region which designs, commissions, manages and funds deep energy retrofit on a street-by-street scale with incremental community investments at no cost to the property owners, regardless of ownership and usage typology.

  • By centralising the design process, more systemic energy decisions are made, for example around local energy systems and integration with district heating.
  • By centralising procurement, greater economies of scale are realised, improving economics and providing a lead market to the supply chain creating an environment for investment.
  • By operating at a community scale, additional projects such as resilience building, co-working spaces and green infrastructure in the shared spaces can be implemented at lower marginal cost. This drives greater impact and citizen engagement, changing the process from a “retrofit programme” to a “neighbourhood greening and investment programme”.
  • By centralising funding, projects can be aggregated on a neighbourhood scale allowing access to completely different types of funding and crucially removing the requirement of indebtedness for individual property owners, which is a key barrier.

To fund the work, a mechanism is needed to attach the long-term energy and maintenance savings to the centralised funding source. The proposal is that this takes the form of a long term (30 year+) comfort and maintenance contract with the resident. The contract would be embedded into the property deeds so that it automatically novates to whoever lives in the property and does not follow the individual when they move away. Alternatively, the resident would be offered the option to contribute the funding for their property directly in which case they would receive the full benefits of reduced energy requirement going forward without any need to engage in the design, procurement and delivery process.

Figure 3: Operating Mechanism

This is not an ESCO model (1). The resident would retain their relationship with existing utility providers for any grid power that they require post retrofit. The significant reduction of energy use achieved through demand mitigation measures and maximising localised heat and electricity generation would create the financial space for the payment of the comfort and maintenance fee at no aggregate increase in cost to the resident.

Contracting all the energy and maintenance savings to the GNaaS organisation would maximise the potential for return-based finance in the funding model. Implementing governance structures that align the decision-making processes with the overall goals of the city could create a mechanism for social outcome goals to be included in contractual terms.

This mechanism could provide a theoretical lever to the public authority to leave part of the savings with the resident enabling the mechanism to become a powerful tool in tackling fuel poverty.

Figure 4: Funding Flow Through the OpCo / FinCo model

The Capital Stack That Will Be Needed

From the modelling work we have done with several cities, the internal rate of return (IRR) provided by the energy savings from this blended set of neighbourhood interventions is consistently negative, even assuming a 30-year payback period. But by considering a large enough layer of various non-repayable funding sources, or impact finance, we can move the IRR for the remaining funding requirement into positive territory. Furthermore, adding returns from other sources, e.g. health improvement, can further improve the pay-out profile.

The resulting model creates a potentially multi-billion, stable and low returning financial investment opportunity for sources of patient capital that also value a robust set of impact metrics such as decarbonisation, healthcare improvement, fuel poverty abatement, educational outcomes, air quality improvements or biodiversity gains. We would argue this could be a good fit for sources of capital such as pension funds and insurance companies, which are increasingly demanding products which offer impact related benefits in addition to a financial return, under pressure from underlying asset owners and regulators.

Further, it is a structure that can take in repayable, but zero or ultra-low coupon, finance from multilateral or development finance institutions seeking climate change impact and/or post-COVID recovery funding.

In addition, there is an opportunity to offer participation for local communities to invest through a community bond type structure allowing direct participation in the returns.

For the non-repayable layer of finance, various components will need to be combined.

  • Funnelling existing municipal budgets earmarked for improving energy efficiency of public owned properties into the mechanism
  • Repurposing existing subsidy schemes into the mechanism
  • Additional national/supranational grant funding schemes aimed at decarbonisation and/or post-covid recovery; the work is labour-intensive and community wealth building activities relating to asset maintenance and green infrastructure can be incorporated.
  • The potential to incorporate other outcome seeking pools of funding, for example allocation of healthcare budgets into what would become a preventative programme reducing future burden on the health care system, biodiversity improvement funding etc.
  • An option for building owners to fund the work themselves and have the occupant benefit from the energy savings. They still benefit from the centralised orchestration, better economics and broader impact.
  • Exploration of the potential to accredit such centralised and scaled retrofit programmes as sources of carbon credits for voluntary carbon offset schemes allowing corporates to achieve their own net zero targets by buying credits that directly improve the communities they operate in and their employees live in.

Figure 5: The proposed Capital Stack with illustrative figures

There are significant governance issues to solve in designing how this entity would operate and to align its actions with those of the public sector. We propose it would be a not-for-profit organisation using a standard return-based fund management fee structure to cover its own operating costs, with involvement from public sector officials in supervisory committees etc to ensure alignment.

We are not claiming that this proposal is yet a finalised solution; there are many complexities to work through (several which are being tackled in pilot projects planned in Milan and Zagreb). However, we are convinced that this concept has the potential to unlock the scaling of improved energy efficiency in the built environment in a meaningful way.

Next Steps

  • Integration with a mechanism to help scale beyond pilot phase, taking learnings from models like LABEEF in Latvia to enable an ecosystem of private sector contracting firms to take over the heavy lifting work of much of the OpCo envisaged above, thereby creating competition leaving the OpCo part of the retrofit company as a commissioning and refinancing engine for implementation firms.
  • Technical assistance funding is required to further develop this work, on the finance side, but also to develop the engagement process with citizens, scope out the legal challenges around contracting as well as integration with the supply chain
  • Pilots will need to be run in multiple cities to prove out the concept. We would envisage these covering 2-300 residential units at a total funding cost of €10-15m each. Pilots are in advanced stage of design in Milan and Zagreb) though engagement has begun in multiple cities across Europe including Copenhagen, Leuven, Vienna, Krakow and Edinburgh.
  • Funding providers, including private sector impact finance firms, development finance institutions and philanthropic outcome purchasers will need to engage who are willing to partner with cities to develop these structures so that they can grow to commercial scale.

1 ESCO – Energy Service Company – is a company that provides energy to customers and services to improve efficiency. An ESCO typically sits between the consumer and the utility providers.

Oil-rich Gulf faces prospect of unlivable heat as planet warms

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France24‘s story by Aziz El Massassi with AFP Correspondent in the Gulf on how Oil-rich Gulf faces prospect of unlivable heat as planet warms unabatedly up. The described scenario is no more open for debate and the likelyhood of what is advanced has great chances to happen. The reasons of climate change are not only rightly founded but insufficient as a justification amongst many others, all because of the extent of the over-built environment that was frenetically developed within the last fifty years.

The above image is for illustration and of The Arab Gulf is expected to be the epicentre of a severe heat wave
© Getty Images/iStockphoto Thinkstock Images.

Oil-rich Gulf faces prospect of unlivable heat as planet warms

Dubai residents often leave for cooler climates during the hottest months, while many who stay spend their time scurrying between air-conditioned locations—or rely on delivery drivers for a panoply of services.

Gulf cities such as Dubai are known for their scorching summers, but experts warn climate change could soon make parts of the fossil fuel-rich region unlivable for humans.

Daily temperatures in the coastal metropolis regularly top 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for several months of the year and are exacerbated by high humidity.

“I work from 9 am until 4 pm in this heat,” Pakistani scooter driver Sameer said, sweat dripping from his forehead.

“Sometimes, the company or people give us water to drink, and we get a break every three hours,” added Sameer, who works for a mobile delivery app and declined to provide his surname.

A new report this month by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed unequivocally that the climate is changing faster than previously feared, and because of human activity.

Even now, Dubai residents often leave for cooler climates during the hottest months, while many who stay spend their time scurrying between air-conditioned locations—or rely on delivery drivers for a panoply of services.

The UAE is also one of the world’s most arid countries, and for the past several years it has used aircraft for cloud seeding to artificially produce rain.

One expert has warned of the risks for the region as climate change progresses.

“In general, the level of heat stress will increase significantly,” said Elfatih Eltahir, a professor of hydrology and climate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

With higher temperatures and humidity towards the end of this century, some parts of the Gulf will experience periods of “heat stress conditions that will be incompatible with human survival”, he warned.

Daily temperatures in Dubai regularly top 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for several months of the year, and are exacerbated by high humidity.

‘Wake-up call’

“That will not happen all the time, they will be episodes that would happen once or twice every seven years,” he added.

The combination of heat and relative humidity has the potential to be deadly if the human body is unable to cool off through sweating.

Scientists have calculated that a healthy human adult in the shade with unlimited drinking water will die if so-called “wet-bulb” temperatures (TW) exceed 35C for six hours.

It was long assumed this theoretical threshold would never be crossed, but US researchers reported last year on two locations—one in the United Arab Emirates, another in Pakistan—where the 35C TW barrier was breached more than once, if only fleetingly.

Calls to reduce carbon emissions pose major economic challenges for oil and gas-rich Gulf countries, from OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia to Oman and Qatar.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has said the IPCC report “must sound a death knell” for coal, oil and gas, and warned that fossil fuels were destroying the planet.

But some Gulf states in recent years have taken up greener rhetoric as they try to improve their environmental credentials and diversify their economies away from oil.

Tanzeed Alam, managing director of Dubai-based Earth Matters Consulting, said there was increasing interest in the environment and the impact of climate change in the UAE.

Mechanics work in Isa Town, south of Bahrain’s capital Manama. Average summer temperatures in the country range between 35C and 40C.

“But we are yet to see the large, family-owned businesses really taking this issue to the core of their business models,” he told AFP.

“Businesses don’t often understand how they can cope with increased heatwaves, storms, flooding and other physical impacts,” Alam said.

He expressed hope that the UN report would act as a “wake-up call”.

‘Clear decisions’

The United Arab Emirates aims to increase its reliance on clean energy to 50 percent by 2050 and reduce its carbon footprint for power generation by 70 percent.

Abu Dhabi, one of seven emirates along with Dubai that make up the country, says it is building the world’s largest single-site solar plant.

Once fully operational, the Al Dhafra solar project will have the capacity to power some 160,000 households nationwide, according to the WAM state news agency. It is scheduled to commence operations in 2022.

In Bahrain, where average summer temperatures range between 35C and 40C, Mohammed Abdelaal’s company Silent Power uses solar technology to cool water tanks.

He said demand had increased in several Gulf countries this summer, noting that the region’s ample supply of sunlight facilitates the production of “clean, sustainable, low-cost energy”.

Mohammed Abdelaal’s company Silent Power uses solar technology to cool water tanks.

Bahrain aims for 10 percent renewable energy by 2035, according to state media, while neighbouring Saudi Arabia—with ambitious plans to diversify its oil-reliant economy—in March unveiled a campaign to generate half of its energy from renewables by 2030.

In Kuwait, Khaled Jamal al-Falih expressed concern at what runaway climate change could mean for his country.

“In Kuwait today, a person who needs to run an errand can’t do so until after six o’clock in the evening, and leaving the house means being in an air-conditioned car to go to an air-conditioned place,” he told AFP.

Almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels, the country has a 15 percent renewable energy target by 2030, according to state media.

Falih said his house ran solely on solar power, and urged the government to make “clear decisions” to combat climate change.

The idea of being able to escape the reality of global warming has “become impossible”, Falih said.

Explore further: Climate report must be ‘death knell’ for fossil fuels: UN chief

How can activists best advance environmental reforms in MENA?

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This paper written by Rory Quick is the winning submission of Arab Reform Initiative 2021 Student Essay Contest. It is about how can activists best advance environmental reforms in MENA.

The above picture is for illustration and is of the BBC.

How can activists best advance environmental reforms in MENA?

Decarbonising the current energy system does not secure a sustainable future if challenges beyond carbon emission are ignored and the economic model which continues to exacerbate the challenges we face is not rectified. Genuine environmental reform requires an intersectional approach, one which does not just patch over problems but instigates reform. The socio-political and environmental crises we face are symptoms of the same problem and must be treated as such. In order to reach a sustainable future, policies should resolve current issues without creating or exacerbating existing challenges. If there is a reason for social movements to exist, it is to challenge dominant values as flexible and changeable and to offer alternative ways to live. Across the MENA region, there are growing calls – from experts and activists – for reform in the region to simultaneously deal with wider socio-political issues whilst decarbonizing energy systems.

In the MENA region, states are preoccupied with developing renewable energy (RE) at large scale. Examples include Morocco’s Ouarzazate Noor Solar Plant and Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park. This is an extension of the existing energy model. Megaprojects are political as much as economic projects. They support exclusionary political regimes and enable states to strengthen existing socio-political systems, and thus further reduce the political autonomy of the individual. Energy megaprojects are projections of state centralization, as they require no input from the localities in which they are placed. They therefore actively reduce political freedom. An alternative model – the decentralised RE model – allows for ownership and operation of RE to remain in the communities where it operates. Solar and wind technology is scalable, whereas previous technology was not. This allows for the creation of an energy system that is not only sustainable but also democratically owned and designed, and socially just. A decentralised system, whereby individuals have a direct say in how their energy systems operate, is vital in ensuring energy justice is achieved alongside climate justice.

The structure of energy systems has wide-reaching cultural, socio-political, and economic impacts. MENA activists must understand energy as a critical tool for advancing environmental, political, and social justice causes. Since the energy technology installed today will operate for years to come, we face a once-in-a-century opportunity to build a fairer and greener system. Efforts should be focused on:

  • Increasing awareness and education on the improvements a decentralised energy system would bring to communities across MENA
  • Encouraging the introduction of regulation allowing for/encouraging the installation of RE at the community level.
  • Growth of locally led organisations supporting community ownership of RE assets, developing frameworks which can be implemented across the region.

The barriers to consumer ownership of RE are political, legal, administrative, economic, managerial, and cultural. Activists must recognise that developments are needed on a number of fronts simultaneously.

Centralised model of REDecentralised model of RE
Understanding of energyA commodity, the enabler of capital accumulation and economic expansion.A resource to be democratized and harnessed according to societies needs.
ObjectiveDe-carbonise the existing economy. Separate the climate crisis from the economy, implying that it can be resolved without addressing socio-economic problems, and vice versa.Transition to a de-carbonised representative economy which better serves the needs of all. Socio-political and climate issues are linked, highlighting the incompatibility of globalised capitalism with the Earth’s ecological limits.
SolutionSubstitute fossil fuels with RE to allow for de-carbonised capitalism.Reduce greenhouse gas emissions using market mechanisms and new technology, within the current structure of corporate economic and political power.Replace the globalised capitalist system with sustainable economic development to meet the needs of humanity rather than the needs of capital accumulation.  Create an alternative socio-economic order based on principles of individual/community autonomy, with an energy platform that displaces the corporate energy establishment.
 A table comparing the two prevailing views in RE transition theory. 

Jordan’s energy transition thus far is a strong example of a socially just energy transition. Regional activists should seek to replicate aspects of its regulatory and policy framework into other regional energy systems. In 2015, Jordan financed the installation of 400 household solar PV systems. Each system ranges from 1 to 4 KW in size. The government grants loans to homeowners in rural communities, who pay back the loan with the money they otherwise would have spent on their energy bill.  Once the loans are repaid, the ministry re-invests the money into other homes. This shows how decentralised RE systems are possible in the MENA as long as sound regulation, created in a supportive political environment, is in place.

However, most examples of MENA RE uptake instead show a reliance on highly-technologically developed systems without the development of any policies which allow for decentralisation. Attempts to deal with climate change independent of ethical, moral and political entailments, relying solely on technical adjustments, obfuscate the simple realization that not only the fuels used but also the very system in place are not sustainable. This mindset remains prevalent across MENA.

Decentralised RE would enable individuals to have a greater say in how their energy systems operate, bolstering socio-political autonomy which is currently lacking. Interacting with energy systems in this way will also teach the importance of individual/community responsibility for reducing energy consumption, a related environmental problem across MENA states. Greater awareness of how decentralised energy can support decentralised politics need to be established. Activists have a crucial role to play in educating and building a broad-based inclusive movement.

Just transition plans have been implemented in several localities and at the State level across the world. Support is growing for legislation which supports decentralised transitions in many countries. Activists should campaign for the inclusion of energy democracy theory into university curriculums, as well as featuring in the work of global RE institutions based in MENA countries such as the IRENA.

Given the existential threat we now face, largely due to burning fossil fuels, our relationship with energy systems must be reevaluated. Across the globe, community owned RE revolutions are underway and are possible where robust political and legal regulation is in place, combined with public support and the existence of local organisations committed to the development of such systems. The development of such frameworks is where not only environmental but social justice and political activists should focus their efforts, once awareness of the role that energy systems could have in empowering change has been established. Policy makers must be informed that publicly financed and owned RE are a win-win for individuals and for the climate. Concerned citizens must push for policy changes that allow for such a system to be developed.

Activists should also recognise the favourable conditions the region’s urban environments offer for building a publicly owned and managed decentralised energy system. Promoting energy democracy at the municipal level will create a base to drive change on a national scale.  Decentralised urban systems will also reduce the requirement for further energy megaprojects.

As in political activism, proponents of energy democracy must remember the importance of broadening the scope of democratisation rather than implementing democracy outright. Examples of structures conducive to greater participation in energy policy include individuals deciding on wind turbine locations or consumers deciding the prices of their municipal energy supplier. Reformation of energy systems takes time.

Activists must develop organisations which support community ownership of RE assets. These organisations should offer managerial and financial advice to individuals/communities based on sound understandings of regional and national regulations. Such organisations have a major role in catalysing a decentralised energy transition and will prove instrumental in determining the form of transition that takes place. With decentralised energy systems, each locality’s requirements will be unique. However, regional dialogue is imperative in terms of facilitating learning and development opportunities, as well as providing a support base and showcasing successes as they arise. Again, activist efforts are needed not only to set up such organisations but also to sustain and develop them as the transition progresses.

The transition away from fossil-fuels is an important component of the fight against climate change. Yet what is often overlooked is the centralised ownership and control of energy by corporate and state actors. This overwhelmingly favours electricity generation for the sake of profit, instead of human and ecological realities. Those who are most directly impacted are excluded from ownership and circles of decision-making. In order to create a more sustainable society, this needs to change.

The view of ‘energy as commodity’ is prevalent today even as the energy industry transitions to RE sources. Transition is inevitable, justice is not. Meaningful environmental reforms must recognise the intersectionality of the problems we face. A decentralised energy system will not only establish a sustainable energy system quickly and efficiently but will simultaneously alleviate socio-political grievances, symptoms of the same system causing the environmental degradation activists seek to solve. Proponents of decentralised energy must recognise the widespread benefits these systems offer and thus lobby the support of a wide network of individuals, activists, and communities across the MENA region.

Rory Quick is a Masters student, Economics and Policy of Energy and Environment, University College London

Rory is a recent graduate from the University of Exeter, where he read Arabic and Islamic Studies, and is currently studying for a masters in Economics and Policy of Energy and Environment at University College London. He enjoys all things MENA and seeks to combine this with a passion for renewable energy and sustainability.


Libya’s wildlife treasure island at risk of ruin

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An article by France 24 on how Libya’s wildlife treasure island is at risk of ruin as per recent studies of the nearby environment. Here is the story.

The featured picture above is of the island in question as an uninhabited 13-kilometre-long (eight-mile) sandbar cut off at high tide in far western Libya, Farwa appears picture-postcard idyllic, with scattered date palms on white sandy beaches.


Libya’s wildlife treasure island at risk of ruin

Farwa (Libye) (AFP) Issued on: 08/08/2021

Once famed for its exceptional wildlife, Libya’s Farwa island risks becoming just another victim of lawlessness in the war-ravaged North African nation, activists struggling to save it warn.

An uninhabited 13-kilometre-long (eight mile) sandbar cut off at high tide in far western Libya, Farwa appears picture-postcard idyllic, with scattered date palms on white sandy beaches and ringed by the sparkling Mediterranean Sea.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has said Farwa is potentially the “most important coastal and marine site in western Libya, in terms of its high marine and coastal biodiversity”.

But it faces a long list of threats, said Fawzi Dhane from local environmental group Bado, identifying illegal fishing and pollution as key worries.

Climate change is also exacerbating the situation, making Farwa more vulnerable to the pressures already heaped on its fragile environment.

For decades there were few visitors, apart from occasional school trips to the island.

Farwa faces a long list of threats, environmental activists say, including illegal fishing and pollution Mahmud Turkia AFP

Libya’s former dictator Moamer Kadhafi dreamt of building a luxury seaside resort there, complete with “floating” villas and a golf course.

But Kadhafi was ousted and killed in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, and Libya has struggled to contain violence and political turmoil ever since.

– Explosive fishing –

In a country awash with weapons, some find lobbing grenades into the water an easy way to fish — a destructive method killing everything in the blast zone.

“The fishermen do not respect anything,” Dhane said, blaming boats from the port of Zuwara, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) to the east.

“They fish at all times, in an unregulated way — and they practise fishing with explosives.”

Former Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi dreamt of building a luxury seaside resort at Farwa Mahmud TURKIA AFP

Endangered loggerhead turtles are also being harmed, according to the activist.

“The turtles are sometimes caught in fishing nets, when they are not killed by fishermen who fear their bites,” said Dhane.

The Bado association works to protect turtle clutches laid on the beach from predators and from people who come to dig up the eggs.

The island, which lies close to the border with Tunisia, is made up of sand dunes stretching over 4.7 square kilometres (1.81 square miles). Its lagoon and salt marshes are also home to flamingos.

One of the only buildings is a crumbling lighthouse built in the 1920s under Italian colonial rule.

Climate change is making Farwa more vulnerable to the pressures already heaped on its fragile environment Mahmud TURKIA AFP

Farwa is among the most important areas in Libya for many migratory birds, according to Tarek Jdeidi from the University of Tripoli. It is a key staging post for those travelling over Africa to rest before flying across the Mediterranean to Europe.

Today, Farwa has become a popular spot for Libyan holidaymakers, with dozens visiting every weekend.

“They leave their rubbish behind,” sighed Dhane.

– Chemical pollution –

Another threat comes from the nearby Abu Kammash petrochemical factory, which has for years “leaked heavy metals” into the soil and sea, according to Dhane.

While the complex has been abandoned, the impact of the dangerous pollution “is still felt”, he added.

Shawky Muammar, an archaeologist who has conducted digs on the island, discovering Roman-era tools and tombs, calls the pollution from the dilapidated plant an “environmental disaster”.

He also expressed worry that rising sea levels due to climate change could swamp the low-lying island.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has said Farwa is potentially the ‘most important coastal and marine site in western Libya, in terms of its high marine and coastal biodiversity’ Mahmud TURKIA AFP

“It risks being swallowed up if measures are not taken to try to contain the sea,” he said.

In recent years, oil-rich Libya was split between two rival administrations backed by foreign powers and myriad militias.

After a peace deal last year, an interim unity government was agreed in March ahead of elections set for December.

But it has not changed anything for the island.

In the meantime, environmental groups have taken on the task of protecting Farwa, while hoping for a return to stability and the rule of law.

Dhane said he has “organised conferences and awareness campaigns in schools” to try and explain the threats the island faces.

And in partnership with international organisations like the World Wildlife Fund, “we are trying to educate fishermen”, he added.

© 2021 AFP

Why investing in nature-based solutions is necessary

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By Nidhi Adlakha in The Hindu who addressed the issue of sustainbility in the very specific environment of the Indian subcontiment and advises why investing in nature-based solutions is necessary .

The picture above is for illustration and is of NDC Partnership.

Why investing in nature-based solutions is necessary

It’s the only way forward to create healthy, and pandemic-proof cities

Vultures at Pench National Park, Maharashtra

Several years before the pandemic struck, ecologists and urban design experts across the world were pushing for cities to work on a green agenda. To find nature-based solutions (NbS) to cope with rising urbanisation and the corresponding impact on our surroundings, in terms of high pollution levels, diminishing green spaces, and the spread of diseases, to name a few.

Just like we seem to understand the importance of natural elements only when struck by a calamity, this time has been no different. With the world continuing to live under the dreary shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic, the conversation around NbS for cities has taken centre-stage yet again, and for good measure.

Following a two-year global consultation, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) launched its Global Standard for NbS in July 2020. Through public consultation reaching hundreds of stakeholders from 100 countries, it ‘was developed to be facilitative, incentivising and enabling users to implement strong NbS projects’. The Global Standard includes self-assessment on eight criteria and associated indicators, which address the pillars of sustainable development (economy, environment and society) and resilient project management (iucn.org).

Cycle tracks in Kochi 

The IUCN’s official announcement also states something very important, which most international policies lack: why was an NbS needed in the first place? It states that an increased demand for NbS has ‘led to cases of misuse of the concept, and even good intentions can result in harm to nature and people’. Topping the list on how they are misused is the fact that many don’t take into account social and economic factors. For example, they explain how a tree-planting project using just one non-native species could result in poor soil biodiversity, ultimately making it more costly or impossible to sustain a diverse forest in the future. Or how, restoring a mangrove forest to reduce the risk of storm damage, could be doomed from the start if upstream and downstream processes are not considered.

In India, there are many successful stories of NbS, a majority coming from the rural heartland. In the Chirgaon village of Maharashtra’s Konkan region, wildlife conservator Premsagar Mestri has successfully increased the region’s otherwise diminishing vulture population over the past few decades. Organic farmers like Telangana’s Mavuram Mallikarjun Reddy (who recently bagged the Jagjivan Ram Abhinav Kisan Puruskar from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research) are among several across the country who are gradually switching over to natural farming practices. Over the years, The Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) has successfully created models for cycle sharing in cities like Chennai and Pune, and continues to further the cause of sustainable and inclusive transport.

The pedestrian plaza at Pondy Bazaar, Chennai

A 2020 blog on The World Resources Institute (WRI) mentions how, through the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN), Surat, Gujarat has designed better management of natural water bodies and prevented construction on the floodplains in the city. Similar practices have been adopted by Burhanpur and Indore in Madhya Pradesh, where with the support of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), community participation helped in conserving and managing traditional water sources.

Albeit heartening, a lot remains to be done to ensure the large-scale application of such NbS projects. While education and policies that work from the ground up are crucial, so is funding. According to the UNEP, if the world is to meet the climate change, biodiversity, and land degradation targets, it needs to close a $4.1 trillion financing gap by 2050. The current investments in NbS amount to $133 billion — most of which comes from public sources. The WRI blog makes a case for managing fiscal allocations under flagship schemes and funds as a way to raise finances. The National Clean Energy and Environment Fund, National and State Disaster Mitigation Funds, Compensatory Afforestation Funds, District Mineral Foundation (DMF) etc. can be tapped for anchoring NbS.

What we need to see more of are well-planned urban rejuvenation projects — reviving water bodies and wetlands, encouraging eco-waste solutions, designing and promoting nature-friendly construction techniques, making public transportation accessible, among others. As for what we need to see less of, it’s our billionaires and trillionaires jet-setting to space at the cost of mind-boggling carbon emissions. We’d rather have them pump in these funds for the earth’s recovery. If only.