OPINION: After Paris – “Going from intended to implemented, that is the question” says Margaret Kamau, Kenya

Kenya aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030 relative to Business As Usual. This goal is subject to international support in the form of finance, investment, technology development and transfer, and capacity building. Margaret Kamau, CDKN´s Country Engagement and Project Manager talks to Miren Gutiérrez about what this target means for her country.


The Paris Agreement created an ambitious mandate for the global community. Does it change the national conversation in Kenya about action on climate change? If so, how?

Well before, for much of 2015, there has been quite a momentum in Kenya around preparations for COP21 [Editor: 21stConference of the Parties for the UNFCCC], the INDCs [Climate plans which countries submitted to the conference] and the Paris Agreement. A number of stakeholders were quite involved in the ‘road to COP’ process. I think that this kind of momentum has carried on in 2016.

From meetings that we had this February and March, we can tell there is a bit of uncertainty about “what next” with regards to the Paris Agreement. But the Government of Kenya is taking steps to clarify this. For example, in mid-February there was a meeting on the post-Paris situation with a wide range of civil society organisations and other stakeholders, where the government was able to explain what the next steps were and what the COP21 meant.

In two weeks, there is another stakeholder consultation session, now addressed towards developing the next steps after Paris. Now we are waiting to hear what the government has planned and what they need support for. I know they are also looking at the implications for Kenya’s growth and sustainable development. So I think the main influence COP21 has had is creating momentum before, during and after the event.

Ban Ki Moon visits geothermal plant, Kenya, courtesy UNEP

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon visits a geothermal power facility in Kenya; courtesy UNEP.

Are these consultations with civil society and stakeholders binding in any way, has the government been gathering their feedback, or are they just informative?

They have been mainly for information purposes, not to get feedback or to pass clear information on what the next steps are. But I believe the intention of the government is that the next meeting is to be more action oriented. Kenya’s civil society has challenged the government to take action to implementing the agreement. But not openly in the media.

As for coverage, media articles and news stories on climate change tended to be published before and during COP21, with different sectoral approaches. Since the Paris conference, we haven’t seen as much. Although that is not necessarily negative…

Kenya indeed submitted an ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ (INDC). What will it take to get from ‘intended’ to ‘implemented’? What are the big opportunities and challenges?

That is the question. In terms of implementation, we believe the next step the government should take is to lay out the key priority actions in the climate action plan, and take them forward. There is the realisation that the actions contained in the INDC have been ongoing actions. So it is about accelerating investment to support implementation in those areas.

The big opportunities are first at a sectoral level. The energy sector, the forestry sector, the transport sector have all seen significant growth in the last few years. So those would be quick wins: sectors where there has been ongoing work.

In the energy sector, for example, there is already significant investment [in low carbon energy], but there is room for more. The next steps would be: identifying the actions, the key people and institutions to take those actions and accessing the finance required.

Another opportunity would be leveraging the momentum that the Paris Agreement has created to make sure that all stakeholders are aware of it, and employing this ongoing interest and buy-in for activities.

Finance presents both an opportunity and a challenge. We have different financing opportunities, such as Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which may be accessed to implement the country’s NDC. A Kenyan entity has just been accredited as the National Management Authority to access direct funding from the GCF. These are opportunities that the government is already taking.

NAMAs are being developed for the bus rapid transit system, another one for a grid of renewable energy and waste management. A geothermal NAMA was developed and is explored in CDKN’s Inside Story on Climate Compatible Development.

In addition, there is bilateral and multilateral funding: the governments of the UK and Japan and institutions such as the World Bank are funding elements of the NDC as well.

In the finance arena, the Government of Kenya has faced hurdles in producing investment plans and proposals that actually attract funding. Here, some investment may be needed in enhancing capacity for proposal development. A current CDKN project is supporting the government to write an adaptation proposal for the GCF. We are responding to a direct government request to help them fill a gap.

Other challenges include coordination. Over the past years, I think the government has improved its coordinated approach towards climate change and development. This has been particularly evident recently during the INDC process. But coordination across government remains a challenge which they continue to address.

Nairobi skyline credit Jonathan Stonehouse

Skyline of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital; courtesy Jonathan Stonehouse

The Paris Agreement calls for limiting average global temperature rise well below 2C, as close to 1.5C as possible. Kenya’s emissions are not huge, but they are growing fast – what hope to see economic growth and human development with lowered emissions in the specific case of Kenya?  

Using the energy sector is a good example. We have seen a significant increase in investments in the renewable energy sector, particularly in geothermal and wind power. About 50% of Kenya´s electricity[1] comes from renewable sources, and this is a number that is increasing on a daily basis. We think that this it is not actually hampering economic growth, because before geothermal power became the focus, hydroelectric power was being produced from dams. Obviously, that meant that during the power crisis electricity was quite erratic because of the reliance on hydropower [Editor: linked to reduced rainfall and river levels – the CDKN Inside Story explains further]. So the focus on this new generation of renewables is actually supporting growth because it is a more reliable source of power and businesses now have more reliable sources of power.

In agriculture, initiatives such as the one led by COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) to reduce agricultural emissions across Kenya and several other African countries will help combat climate change while addressing food security, from the policy level to the farm level.

We have seen initiatives and interventions to improve forest cover and to improve forest conservation resulting in a better environment for people and the communities living around forests. And this translates to improved human development and better economic growth. So far it has not limited economic growth either.

This will continue being a trend for the next couple of years. We still have untapped solar and wind resources. We are expected to have a large 300 megawatt solar farm in the next few years, which will only reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and promote economic growth.

kenya ihub courtesy UNDP

Technology hub, Kenya; courtesy UNDP.

If you check most INDCs from developing countries their emission reduction targets are subject to technology development, international climate finance and capacity building. What would happen if these ‘means of implementation’ do not flow? 

Countries like Kenya have taken some steps towards building internal capacity and using domestic financial national resources to put in place climate change initiatives. This is evident in some government-enabled food security projects, as well as in the setting up of research institutions, industrial research institutions, with technology development. If the means are not put forward, it is not to say that countries such as Kenya will not take action anyway. But the view is that action will be slower because obviously there are other pressing needs that the domestic budget needs to serve. It won’t be a large allocation for a long time, so this will slow the process in achieving sustainable development.

Why are some countries more successful than others in attracting international resources to support climate compatible development? Does their ability to negotiate have anything to do with it? How would you rate Kenya´s performance so far?

Definitely the ability of a country to negotiate in the international arena plays a huge role in attracting climate finance. But also, one thing that stands out looking at these countries have taken initiatives on their own. Brazil, Mexico and Morocco may have allocated domestic resources towards climate change initiatives. And this can help make a case before they go and negotiate climate finance. I believe part of making the case is showing what you can do with our own resources. I think that these have been countries that have been successful in doing this, and when they go to international arena they are not just asking for money. They are saying: this is what we have done and now we need more money to grow this pilot initiate.

Finally, Kenya not very well known for its negotiation power, but I think being part of the African Group of Negotiators has helped Kenya and fellow African countries to try to negotiate collectively. But [its influence] could be improved with further international support.

The SDGs have many climate-related components, as well as a dedicated climate goal. What are some of the ways that the SDGs will influence the planning and practice of development in Kenya in the coming years?

There has not been a lot of communication on the SDGs locally, since the New York summit last September. CDKN helped convene an SDG dialogue process in 2014 – to provide a platform for Kenyan voices in developing the goals. And what came out of this process is that Kenya would need more integrated planning, not just for key economic sectors, making integrated planning a habit if the SDGs are to be achieved. Kenya is also in the process of writing up a green economy strategy, which looks at how to maintain sustainable development while growing the economy.


Image: Kenya, courtesy DFID.

[1] Kenya is looking to geothermal energy to power its growth and reduce reliance on imports. As of 2015, geothermal accounted for 51% percent of Kenya’s energy mix (up from only 13% in 2010). Kenya´s also investing on wind, with Africa’s largest wind farm (310 MW) set to provide another 20% of the country´s installed electricity generating capacity. Those two combined will help Kenya generate 71% of its electricity with renewables in the future, according to CleanTechnica.

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FEATURE: Da Nang – A rising star, menaced by extreme rainfall

Miren Gutierrez uncovers the measures taken by a CDKN project to protect residents in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang from worsening rainfall in a changing climate.

Da Nang is one of the major port cities in Vietnam, and a commercial and transportation hub on the Central Vietnam. With its easily accessible port, at the opening end of the Han River, Da Nang is the leading industrial heart of central Vietnam, and according to Vietnam News, it has set raising targets of its industrial production value. This city is also an international tourist attraction. As a result, its GDP per capita is one of the highest in Vietnam.

Da Nang is also very vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events, such as typhoons and flooding.

According to 100 Resilient Cities, “for years, the city has been developing innovative models to enhance resilience to climate change… And despite the challenges, Da Nang has become an attractive destination in Vietnam for foreign investment. By late November 2013, Da Nang had attracted 279 foreign projects, totalling over US$3.31 billion.”

However, the tourism and service industries are likely to suffer “significant losses” when extreme weather events, such as typhoons and floods, strike the city, “if preventive measures are not carefully considered and incorporated,” says Phong Tran, the Vietnam Technical Lead of the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition (ISET).

Phong, a technical lead of ISET-Vietnam, has more than 15 years working on climate change resilience and disaster risk reduction in developing countries in the Asia and Pacific, particularly in Vietnam. ISET collaborates with local partners to build resilience and catalise adaptation to social and environmental change.

Rapid development in Da Nang is increasing flood frequency and severity in the city during extreme rain events. “Climate change will increase the intensity of extreme rainfall events in and around Da Nang,” says a report published by the Climate Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) in 2014. In 2007, for example, “a moderate rainfall event caused significant flooding in the city; flooding was clearly exacerbated by rapid development and urbanisation occurring in the floodplain.”

By the end of the 2020s, the CDKN report says, climate change could increase the rainfall intensity of such events by 3 to 24%.

In 2012 ISET, with funding from (CDKN), undertook a 2-year long analysis research project to evaluate the economic costs averted from building to storm resistant standards in Vietnam. TheSheltering From a Gathering Storm research programme, also implemented in India and Pakistan, targeted peri-urban areas in Vietnam to identify solutions for resilient shelters and the long-term economic returns of investing in such shelter structures.

The problem was that construction standards based on historical experience would not prepare houses and infrastructure for future events, which are to be more frequent and intense. “If the city continues to expand into low-lying areas without taking a multi-activity flood risk reduction approach and multi-hazard resilient construction, damage and possible loss of life may be severe even in areas of new construction,” concludes the CDKN report.

Da Nang sits on a long piece of lowland coastline, with the city centre resting along the Han river. Flooding occurs frequently and typhoons are yearly occurrences. The poor households of the city face insufficient access to housing and other services, such as health care, transport and education. This project helped “build and retrofit” –that is, adapt— hundreds of houses for the poor, says Phong.

But what is a storm-resilient house, exactly? Storm-resilient construction methods include “closed concrete frames” –single-piece concrete frames that are easy to assemble and are very resistant—; “ring beams at foundation and roof levels” –supports connecting walls and increasing the load capacity of the walls—; detached veranda, strong connections between roof parts, and tightened windows and doors,” says Phong.

There are also mitigation co-benefits in resilient building. Features included in resilient houses are “openings on both sides,” for example, which “enable natural cross ventilation and natural lighting inside the house and, thus, reduce energy consumption for artificial cooling and lighting equipment (fans, lightbulbs),” he adds.

The expectations from this project include –according to Phong— “wide replication of safe housing construction practices”, as well as “increased public awareness on safe housing”, the engagement of “a wide range of stakeholders in building a resilient housing system” with the support of the city; and “the mainstreaming of risk reduction measures” in granting building permits in vulnerable areas, he says.

On October 15, 2013 typhoon Nari landed in Da Nang city. Storm winds and heavy rainfall led to flooding, thousands of homes were damaged and many people were injured. According to the report of Da Nang City People´s Committee, the damage amounted to up to $40 million.

“No damages were incurred, however, in the homes built as part of the Storm Resistant Housing for a Resilient Da Nang City project,” says a report published by ISET in the aftermath of the typhoon.

The Storm Resistant Housing for a Resilient Da Nang City project has been funded by Rockefeller Foundation and administered by ISET, in partnership with the Da Nang Women’s Union, and it linked with the learning derived from the Sheltering From a Gathering Storm research programme, co-funded by CDKN.

“The retrofits were a great success and showed great added value,” says Kenneth A. MacClune, President and CEO of ISET.

“Beneficiary households strengthened their houses and prepared carefully to cope with the typhoon, therefore their houses were all safe. Meanwhile, many houses and public structures in their area, even right next to them had their roofs blown away and they suffered heavy damages,” says the ISET report on the consequences of Nari.

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OPINION: After Paris – “About money and determination”, a view from Mihir Bhatt, India

India emerged at the COP at Paris as a strong voice, demanding that rich countries show the way in cutting emissions and deliver more funds to poor countries, especially for adaptation purposes and “loss and damage” compensation. Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of this country of 1.2 billion people, the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, announced huge investments in solar energy, but at the same time reasoned that India’s growth should continue to be powered by coal and fossil fuels for many years. Three months after the deal was struck,Mihir Bhatt, CDKN´s country leader for India who leads All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI), talks to CDKN’s Miren Gutierrez about the next steps that will be needed for implementing India´s commitment.

The Paris Agreement created an ambitious mandate for the global community. Does it change the national conversation in India about action on climate change? And on disaster risk management? If so, how?

The national conversation on sustainable development has evolved since the COP21 Paris Agreement. Shri Prakash Javdekar, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has said that he would ensure that the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) becomes not only a national commitment, but also a commitment by the people of India. In one indication of the government’s eagerness to move, Shri Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Surface Transport, has urged Indian businesses to move to adopt the stringent Euro 6automobile emission standards before the deadline in 2020[1]. Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), in fact, moved the conversation, even before the Paris conference, from negotiation, theory, data and scientific proof to what individual citizens are already doing and can do to both adapt to and mitigate climate change. The book Rising to the Call: Good Practices for Climate Change Adaptation”, published by CSE, was distributed to over a hundred key individuals shaping implementation of INDCs in India by the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) and met a warm welcome from Minister Javdekar.

Similarly, on the Disaster Risk Reduction front, the conversation has moved from disasters and climate risk separately to addressing disaster risk in an integrated fashion, which may incude climate related risks. This is a big shift in a short time. However, what is needed is far more action on the ground. For example, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) needs to move boldly to take up climate change issues, such as mitigating the effects of heat waves, as part of its ongoing activities in India´s cities. Kamal Kishore, Member, NDMA, is striving towards this integration. The District Disaster Management Plans (DDMP) and the District Climate Change Plans (DCCP) across India must integrate with the District Development Plans. The Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group (GEAG) is trying this integration in Uttar Pradesh, and the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA), in Odisha. Both efforts are supported by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). In short, conversation and actions, both are focusing more on what can be done to integrate development with climate adaptation and mitigation measures, and how.

India submitted an ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ (INDC) – what will it take to get from ‘intended’ to ‘implemented’? What are the big opportunities and challenges?

It will take both determination and money to make the the INDC work on the ground. Road maps are being made by the government as well as by various civil society organisations at several levels. Key think tanks are busy working out ways to move ahead in implementing and verifying the implementation of India’s INDC. The government has set up the International Solar Alliance (ISA) to use more solar energy at home and abroad – India has contributed US$250 million as well as land and buildings for IAS, while the government of France has invested €300 million to lend to solar energy parks and related industries in India and in other developing countries. What is needed is a series of project development facilities (PDF) that pull together skills, vision, knowledge and initial finance to set the ball rolling.

I must also mention that Indians will approach the implementation of the INDC from many directions. There is the government’s “growth” approach, which dominates public expenditure. Civil society groups are also exploring the use of what is now called “bioeconomics” with focus on ecosystems. Meanwhile, leading economists are talking about the “Economy of Tomorrow”, with focus on much broader economics not driven by “growth” but shared prosperity for all including social and ecological gains. Artists are talking about “We in Climate Change” with focus on inclusion. Several concerned voices have been raised to put biodiversity, ecology, inclusion and jobs at the centre of INDC implementations. The way of Anubandh, or mutually beneficial, communities that reduce the distance between producer and consumer as a way of thinking more holistically about economic decisions is being promoted by women’s groups and Gandhian thinkers. There is definitely diversity and richness in the way India aspires to move ahead with the INDC.

India has committed to lower the emissions intensity of GDP[2] by 33% to 35% by 2030 below 2005 levels, to increase the share of non-fossil based power generation capacity to 40% of installed electric power capacity by 2030, and to create an additional carbon sink through additional forest and tree cover by 2030. India’s commitment has been rated by the Climate Action Tracker as ‘medium’, can more be done?

More can always be done! But first, all that can be done must be done. And that India is doing. Turning INDCs in to an operational plan is not easy for a country of India’s size and diversity.The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) is holding a consultation and discussion on the Paris Agreement and India’s INDCs, called “Enhancing Preparedness for Implementation and Tracking of Mitigation Actions, Plans and Policies”, on March 14, 2016 in New Delhi to determine possible ways of implementation. The discussions leading up to the March 14 event are exciting. There are calls for the involvement of youth and groups are demanding that the 100 Smart Cities initiative be made INDC compliant. Large business houses are looking to support rural livelihood creation in India’s craft sector as a low carbon activity. International financial institutions are trying to find ways to “Make a Business Case for the INDC”. The list is growing each week. CDKN in India has drawn up an innovative plan to use lessons learned not as an output but as an input to education, business, and governance that leads to climate compatible development

If you check most INDCs from developing countries their emission reduction targets are subject to technology development, international climate finance and capacity building. What would happen if the means of implementation does not flow?

If the means of implementation do not flow from the international community, it will give a very negative signal to India and to most other developing countries. Trust built over years of negotiations will be corroded. Developed nations will show themselves in very poor light. The recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) decision on solar energy and technology transfer has not gone well with India or with many Asian and African developing countries[3]. Pressure must be built to make money and technology flow to where it matters the most, and that is to the developing countries.

India is determined to move ahead, so even if technology does not come to India’s businesses and households, the country will attempt to stand on its own feet. Should India need to invent its own green technology such as for “carbon fixing” or advanced solar energy, or super wind turbines India is capable of doing so on its own, as declared by Piyush Goyal, Minister of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy, at the recent Raisina Dialogue[4]. As a participant at the recent “We in Climate Change” film festival organised by CDKN and tve South Asia in Delhi, Anshul Ojha warned that “peace, resilience and jobs will be undermined” in a world where INDCs are used, directly or indirectly, to perpetuate poverty and disparity across or within countries.

The Paris Agreement calls for limiting average global temperature rise well below 2C, as close to 1.5C as possible. India’s emissions are fast growing – how do you reconcile this need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, in the specific case of India?

India is committed to moving ahead with co-benefits: that is, to reduce emissions and poverty both with the same effort. More planning is needed in setting up co-benefits focus so that one benefit does not grow at the cost of another. Plans are being made by the government to generate jobs in forestry; new employment in solar and wind energy; more livelihoods in water harvesting and traditional irrigation; new skills in renewable energy and craft sector and so on. All these, and many more initiatives aim at both, lowering emissions and lowering poverty. Needless to say, far more work is needed to align ambition with results in India.

Have you any reflections on how the process India went through to come up with its INDC will affect what happens next?

The process was most consultative! The INDC formulation process was as inclusive, open and inviting as a government process can be. Prakash Javdekar took time to meet and listen to the potential of this process. The UN system, think tanks, European countries, federation of businesses, civil society, farmers, youth and women were consulted on the direction, pace and content of the INDC in India. This was in addition to the engagement of experts, such as Dr Dubash of Centre for Policy Research, Dr. Parikh who headed Low Carbon Economy Task Force of Government of India; and Pradipto Ghosh of The Energy and Resources Institutes (TERI). As a result, there is wider ownership of the INDC and consequently, its implementation will also be widely owned.

To build on this wide-spread involvement, it is necessary that citizens make their own plans to implement the INDC at the individual level. To me this is most important. Similarly, cities must make their own plans and industries must make their own plans to lower emissions and fix carbon. “Many efforts from many directions to achieve one result” is the only way to go for India according to Dileep Mavalankar, Director of Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar.

The SDGs have many climate-related components, as well as a dedicated climate goal. What are some of the ways that the SDGs will influence the planning and practice of development in India in the coming years?

The convergence of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the INDC has yet to take place in any formal and operative manner in India. Both may agree and overlap in many aspects, but both may still have elements that go in two different directions. And this is natural for any entity which is growing in many directions simultaneously.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is leading meetings with the civil society to converge Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), and COP21 Paris Agreement onto one platform for youth and children. The focus of these meetings is on the poor and vulnerable. Participants at a recent meeting in New Delhi hosted by UNICEF on Post-2015 Children in Changing Climate clearly indicated the need to converge and integrate various global frameworks such a SDGs, COP21 and SFDRR into a creative and concrete approach to human development.

Having said so, let us not forget that this is India, and we must remain prepared to have conflicting and contradicting elements coexist within each of these efforts. Far more efforts will be needed to harmonise these approaches than to standardise them. A focus on the basic human needs for water, food, shelter and connectivity is a good way forward for harmonising. Similarly, measures to enhance income and build assets of the poor are also vital steps in the direction towards the benefits of harmonising reaching the poor. We cannot leave out the importance of finance, access to finance, energy and markets either.


Are there any development initiatives in India that, for you, provide perfect examples of how the country can meet the high aspirations of the Paris Agreement and the SDGs?

There are several! Formal and informal, by the government and by civil society. Take the recent national planning meeting at the India Meteorological Department in Delhi, where a Heat Action Plan for 2016 was shaped by the government, with at least three state governments and officials of five cities. This upcoming summer should see over 10 million citizens of India get information and guidance on how to better protect themselves from the negative impacts of a heat wave. Furthermore, they will take part in efforts to reduce the possibility of heat waves in cities. First time in India, maybe in Asia, such a large number of citizens and cities are simultaneously addressing an adaptation and mitigation challenge as an urban development opportunity.

Measures such as boosting green plantation, water harvesting, constructing green buildings, covering roads, as well as measures to lower emissions, adapt to heat and protect the livelihoods and income of the poor citizens will be unrolled. Beginning with Ahmedabad in Gujarat, the heat action plan will move to Bhubaneswar in Odisha and Nagpur in Maharashtra. There is a great hunger to act, to do something, at the subnational level in India. To address this need, a strong effort is lead by Indian cities in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) of USA, who is offering technical know how, and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) UK, who is offering support.

There are many more examples of efforts by poor women to produce salt with solar pumps, and cooperative banks loans to enhance renewable energy and more. The reality of a vast and diverse nation like India is that we have such human resource, and great local innovation, that the country can tap to create its climate-resilient and low carbon future.

[1] This was at the recent Global Partnership Summit: Smart Cities: Smart India, organised by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) on February 10, 2016 in Delhi. “Most car manufacturers in India are making Euro 6 compliant engines in India and exporting them. They have the technology available and time till 2020,” said transport minister Nitin Gadkari. Bharat Stage-VI is equivalent to Euro 6 emission norms.

[2] Units of energy per unit of GDP. It is an expression of the energy intensity –which a measure of the energy efficiency of a nation´s economy.

[3] In February, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) found India´s solar initiative broke trade rules because it gives domestic manufacturers a 10% quota for the supply of panels. The government-funded programme includes a domestic content clause, which would require part of the solar cells to be produced nationally..

[4] Organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation in Delhi



Image: courtesy DFID

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FEATURE: After Paris – Perspective from Ram Chandra Khanal, Nepal

“How are the most affected people going to benefit from this deal?” asks Ram Chandra Khanal, CDKN’s Nepal Strategy Advisor, of the Paris climate deal. Here, Miren Gutierrez interviews Mr Khanal on the implications of COP21, as part of a series ‘After Paris: Perspectives from developing countries.’

The Paris Agreement on climate change of December 2015, which took weeks of tense negotiations among 196 countries, was deemed by some people to be the world´s greatest diplomatic accomplishment. It will enter into force on the 30th day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention – accounting for at least an estimated 55% of total global greenhouse gas emissions – have exercised their instruments of ratification. So the time to roll up sleeves and start working has come. How does it look from the perspective of a country like Nepal which is highly vulnerable to climate change? This Asian country is threaten by draughts, floods, landslides and soil erosion, while the livelihoods of more than 80% Nepali people depend on climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture, forest and livestock. In this interview, Ram Chandra Khanal, CDKN´s country coordinator and an experienced evaluator of climate change adaptation measures, talks about the challenges for this diverse, mountainous country.

The Paris Agreement created an ambitious mandate for the global community. Does it change the national conversation in Nepal about action on climate change? If so, how?

There still exist two perspectives in Nepal. One group is happy with the achievement as it was due for a long time and they think it is really difficult task to bring all the parties to agreement on a single document or framework without some level of trade off. Others think that the agreement is still vague. For example, how exactly are the most affected people going to benefit in practical terms from this deal? And when?

I have, however, felt a positive vibration from many here, including (Nepali) government stakeholders. The Ministry of Environment has organised meetings to share the findings from the CoP (the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC – the official name of the Paris climate summit). They also organised a workshop to explore ideas about how Nepal can benefit from the agreement. Although it is difficult to attribute the impact (of these initiatives), the Ministry of Environment has created a unit on climate finance within the ministry recently, and also submitted its Action Plan for its INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) to the UNFCCC in the first week of February. These immediate responses showed the government’s positive response and a firm commitment on the agreement.

About Nepal´s INDC, what will it take to get from ‘intended’ to ‘implemented’? What are the big opportunities and challenges?

Nepal had not submitted its INDC as planned earlier (it was submitted only on 4th February 2016). That’s because the government had reservations: should it come up with some ambitious plan or to try to be more realistic based on the commitment expressed in the Nepal’s development plan and other sectoral programmes, strategies and policies? Besides, the ministry wanted to obtain the consent from a higher government authority before they submitted the INDC to the UNFCCC. This took some time. For the last couple of months before the submission, this dilemma was an important issue internally. We at CDKN closely followed the process and also provided our input.

Regarding the question about when commitments stop being “intended” and become “implemented”, the proposals are mostly based on targets set by the government in various sectors. For example, the government has already set targets for renewable energy generation from hydro-electricity and solar power. They are mostly technically “implementable”. But, it is difficult to say now whether they will become a reality soon. There are many policy, institution and financial constraints, among others. My experience of reviewing national plans and development targets for the past decade reminds me their delivery and effectiveness are not usually met 100%. Most of the time, much less is achieved. So, from this point of view, the commitment could remain just “intended”, but we have to aware of the fact that targets are not decided just to be mentioned in the INDC.

In any case, whatever targets are decided within the INDC, they are associated with a “no regret strategy”. That is, there is a general consensus that there must be no negative impacts on development from most of the activities planned in the INDC, by pursuing a low carbon strategy in the development process. Nepal has drafted low carbon economic development strategies, which hopefully will be finalised soon. However, at the same time, this country is facing a huge energy crisis. So there is the possibility that the government may emphasise these dilemmas in facing its INDC.


solar street lights nepal

The Paris Agreement calls for limiting average global temperature rise well below 2oC, as close to 1.5oC as possible. Nepal´s emissions are very low, but they are growing – what hope is there to see economic growth and development with lowered emissions in the specific case of Nepal? Concretely, how do you go about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, addressing economic development and climate change, as well as increasing food productivity sustainably?

Yes, there are a lot of issues and challenges around this. Nepal´s government has incorporated the concept of climate compatible development as one of the strategies, but there is a huge gap in research-based knowledge on what are the barriers and opportunities for that. Nepal’s current emissions are just about 0.027% of the global emissions, and there is therefore the obvious question about why Nepal would worry about reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

This also has to do with climate justice, and how it might affect development priorities and needs. So, Nepal’s climate change priorities are not set around mitigation per se, but the intention is to explore the areas where there are adaptation co-benefits in mitigation. Examples include the conservation of forests, which provide environmental services to people and sequester carbon, replacing fossil fuel-based energy generation by renewable energy; and better transport management in cities, in order to reduce air pollution as well. So, Nepal’s development plans incorporate these climate change strategic issues and climate compatible development processes, without compromising much of its development and economic growth.

In spite of this, there will be certainly trade-offs. I have personally witnessed some such challenges in the agriculture sector. The government has emphasised “climate smart”approaches in its agriculture development strategy. But there are clear trade-offs in this sector, and keeping the agriculture sector climate smart needs additional knowledge and funds.The agriculture sector is highly sensitive to climate change, and more than two thirds of people in Nepal are dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Nepal is also focusing on how new technologies can be transferred with low or no cost from other countries, and how climate finance can be guaranteed in order to move from a traditional economic approach to a more climate compatible alternative. This nevertheless needs a lot of institutional and financial investment.

If you check most INDCs from developing countries their emission reduction targets are subject to technology development, international climate finance and capacity building. What would happen if the means of implementation does not flow at national level? 

This is really important issue. We have seen in many cases that even having the technology, funds and capacity, things do not move in the right direction. But some conditions are to be fulfilled to accomplish this target as well. The first one is related to availability of appropriate technologies, finance and capacity (necessary conditions), at the same time developing and effective management of implementation mechanisms at country level (sufficient condition). Due to the low level of adaptive capacity of the developing countries like Nepal, there is an obvious expectation to get support, technology and climate financing to face climate change. But it is equally important to understand the critical role of a country´s government to implement plans so that broader climate targets can be met. So, to me, these two things need to go hand in hand.

In the context of weak implementation, there is a high chance of failure in climate action in terms of reducing the greenhouse gas emission targets, further aggravating the livelihoods of the most vulnerable people. In addition, weak implementation would add the risk of maladaptation, such as investment on irrigation canal without considering the longer term impact of climate change on water flows and landslides. Another example would be investment in public cold storage for agriculture produce in area where there is long term climate change risk and misuse of resources in unintended areas that might negatively affect the climate targets.

Why do you think some countries are more successful in mobilising climate finance, especially from external sources, than others? Brazil receives US$711.3 million, followed by Mexico (US$666.1 million) and Morocco (US$628.3 million), according to the Climate Fund Update. These are middle-income countries with a lot of resources. Meanwhile, some vulnerable countries receive almost nothing collectively. Does their ability to negotiate have anything to do with it?

Certainly, the ability to negotiate has some impact on how successful a country is in accessing financial resources. In addition to negotiation skills, the other equally important consideration is its institutional capacity to access funds, such as having “capable” institutions with robust administrative and financial systems. It also related to human resources, which is required to understand the cumbersome process and write bankable proposals. But I also think this is also related to power relations at regional and international level.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have many climate-related components, as well as a dedicated climate goal. What are some of the ways that the SDGs will influence the planning and practice of development in Nepal in the coming years?

I am sure the SDGs including climate change action are to be considered as important guidelines for development planning and management in Nepal.

Nepal has already done a lot of ground work in devising institutional frameworks: it has a climate change policy, a National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA), a Local Adaptation Plan of Action (LAPA), and many more. The government has also emphasised climate compatible development as one of the important development strategies for investing. Recent sectoral plans, such as the Agriculture Development Strategy and the National Biodiversity Strategy, address climate change concerns.

Now, international initiatives such as the SDGs and the UNFCCC process call for strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related disasters in developing and least developing countries; integrating climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning, and improving education, awareness raising and human and institutional capacity.

The international community has expressed its commitment to provide financial resources to vulnerable countries and some climate financing mechanisms have been instituted. There are other equally important initiatives being developed. These institutions can enable least developed countries like Nepal to access financial and other resources to address climate change impacts.

Image, right: high mountain agriculture in Nepal, courtesy Asian Development Bank – ADB.


Publicación del artículo “Medios ciudadanos y big data: la emergencia del activismo de datos” en la revistaMediaciones


Los big data representan nuevos retos y nuevas oportunidades para la ciudadanía. Las prácticas del “activismo de datos” surgen de la intersección de las dimensiones social y tecnológica de la acción humana, por la cual la ciudadanía adopta una postura crítica hacia los big data, de los que se apropia para hacer campaña y promover el cambio social. Este artículo teórico explora el surgimiento del activismo de datos como una realidad empírica y una herramienta heurística para estudiar cómo la gente se relaciona políticamente con los big data. Ponemos en contexto este concepto a través de una revisión de literatura académica y ofrecemos una definición del activismo de datos, así como una agenda tentativa para su estudio. Argumentamos que el activismo de datos representa una nueva forma de medio ciudadano que coloca en su mismo centro una aproximación crítica hacia los big data.

La revista Mediaciones es una publicación de difusión científica y académica, de periodicidad semestral, editada por la Facultad de Ciencias de la Comunicación de la Corporación Universitaria Minuto de Dios, Colombia. Se concibe como un espacio de divulgación, reflexión y creación, estructurado en torno a un eje central: la comunicación, comprendida como un campo del conocimiento susceptible de constituirse en objeto de estudio y reflexión, al igual que un medio para abordar otros campos del conocimiento. La revista Mediaciones publica artículos de investigadores en idiomas español, inglés y portugués. Todo texto recibido está circunscrito al campo de la comunicación y en concordancia con alguno de los siguientes lineamientos: Comunicación y desarrollo humano y social; Comunicación y cultura; Prácticas periodísticas, mediáticas y publicitarias; Pensamiento audiovisual; Comunicación estratégica: Comunicación y educación.

He publicado este artículo junto con Stefania Milan, profesora de Nuevos medios y cultura digital de la Universidad de Ámsterdam, Holanda, fundadora del Data J Lab, que se dedica al análisis de los big data, y autora de varios libros sobre los movimientos sociales y sus tecnologías. Sus áreas de interés son las tecnologías y la sociedad, y las posibilidades de emancipación y autonomía que la tecnología digital ofrece a la ciudadanía. Sus investigaciones interdisciplinares emplean la intersección entre el análisis crítico de internet, el estudio de los movimientos sociales, y los estudios sobre ciencia y tecnología.

INTERVIEW: ‘While the rainforest is politically divided, the biome is one’ – Kakabadse

Yolanda Kakabadse – the indefatigable defender of sustainability – is a former Ecuadorian Minister of Environment and the current International President of WWF. Kakabadse also founded CDKN alliance partner Fundacion Futuro Latinamericano, is a member of CDKN’s Network Council and has been involved in the Amazon Security initiative. In this interview with Miren Gutierrez, she explores the challenges facing Amazonian countries in managing this key resource.

You have been reported as saying that people, and more importantly decision-makers, pay more attention to sudden weather-related disasters than to biodiversity loss in Amazonian countries? Is that so? What can be done?

Sudden weather related disasters create a sense of urgency. They usually come along with casualties, people’s losing their housing and livelihoods, damaged infrastructure and many other impacts that affect a society’s dynamic. These events create commotion and the need for immediate government action; there is no discussion about the importance for decision-makers to pay close attention to weather disasters since they are becoming more frequent and intense with climate change. Implementing adaptation plans that reduce their population’s risk and vulnerability is a priority and action is needed now

The need to urgently tackle biodiversity loss is equally important. Yet, this issue seems to be a laggard in the government priority agenda. Most people do not realise the direct relation between biodiversity and our well-being. Biodiversity plays a key role in creating resilient ecosystems and providing vital services such as water, clean air and climate regulation. Additionally, for thousands of years, species have inspired our cultures and helped us build our identity. A world only inhabited by humans is unviable.

The Stockholm Resilience Centre has identified 9 planetary boundaries within which humans can live safely. According to their studies, we have transgressed the biodiversity boundary to such point that we might be entering the sixth extinction phase in the planet. Sadly, humans drive this one. The latest Living Planet Report by WWF affirms that the state of the world’s biodiversity is worse than ever: during the last 40 years vertebrate species have halved. Most of these losses are occurring in the most biodiverse regions in the world. In the Amazon continent, the report showed an 83% loss of the species analyzed. So if you look at scientific evidence, you will see that it is truly dramatic what is happening with biodiversity and the ecosystems on which they depend; this destruction is one of the most important causes of the devastating sudden weather events we are experiencing. Unfortunately, we are still unable to feel the urgency and this inaction will bring irreversible consequences.

CDKN has reported a ‘human security crisis’ caused by climate change and ‘mismanagement of natural resources’ in the Amazon. As habitat destruction trends interact with climate change, the concern is that the Amazon will be caught up in a set of “feedback loops” that could dramatically speed up the pace of forest loss and degradation and bring the Amazon Biome to a point of no return, reports WWF. How are initiatives such as Amazon Security initiative going to contribute to improving the situation?

Climate change is the greatest challenge we will face in this century. Especially, because it will impact health, water, food and energy security and will increase vulnerability and risk for the region’s growing economies and populations. Climate change will transform the Amazon ecosystem. If climate impacts are not managed to avoid getting caught in a set of feedback loops, the transformation will be amplified until there is a point of no return. If we do nothing, climate change will bring devastating consequences and neither the Amazon nor the world will be as we know it. If we avoid this scenario and work together to build a resilient ecosystem, Amazonia can help us adapt better to climate change.                              

A rainforest not only stores carbon, it has a natural ability to regulate and stabilise the climate. Just imagine the power of Amazonia, the largest rainforest on Earth. Protecting the Amazon can protect the climate. In fact, that is precisely what the Amazon Vision seeks: to strengthen the Protected Areas Systems of Amazonia shared by Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela, in order to increase the ecosystem’s resilience to the effects of climate change and to maintain the provision of environmental goods and services benefiting biodiversity, local communities and economies.  The Amazon Security agenda will contribute to tackling climate change since it intends to guarantee water, food, health, energy and of course, climate security throughout the Amazon biome.

What are the concrete obstacles right now to guarantee water security and protection in the Amazon? You have stressed the need to protect and guarantee access to water.

Water is the central and most important resource to guarantee health, energy and food security. A healthy water system is vital for providing clean drinking water, agricultural production and fishery, hydropower generation and regulation of water borne diseases. Water is the nexus that bounds everything. However, agriculture, cattle ranching and energy generation threaten water security through pollution and flow disruption. Hence, all securities are interdependent: If one of them is at risk, probably all of them are.

The Amazon is the largest river system in the world with more than 100.000 km of rivers and streams. The Amazon River on its own discharges an average of 6,300 km3 of water to the Atlantic Ocean annually, nearly 20% of global freshwater that flows into the oceans. Additionally, the rainforest releases 8 trillion tons of water vapor into the atmosphere each year and transports it thousands of kilometers away. Because of that, the Amazon plays a key role regulating the climate system around the continent.

In the midst of abundance, one would think that water security is not an issue but in fact, it is a serious one. Increasingly, water is facing more and more threats. Currently, more than 250 new hydropower dams are planned for the Amazon region. If they all go forward as planned, only three free-flowing tributaries of the Amazon River will remain, compromising the river network and the provision of ecosystem services to the societies and economies in the region. Besides, mining exploitation and pesticides from agriculture pollute the river system with heavy metals and toxins that are ingested by fish and later by humans. Furthermore, increased deforestation and land use changeimpact water availability since the forest recycles nearly 25% of the water it receives. All of these pressures are the main obstacles to guarantee water protection in the Amazon and hence, all other vital securities.

Specifically, how does the initiative recommend responding to extreme droughts that were once unthinkable in this region?

Extreme droughts that were once unthinkable in the region are now more frequent, intense and unpredictable. They are exacerbated by climate change and by the fact that the forest can no longer respond to this phenomenon and regenerate itself in the same way it used to. Future scenarios are less optimistic: it is projected that if warming trends continue, Amazonia will suffer from severe droughts every other year by 2025.

In the last decade the most severe droughts occurred in 2005 and 2010. During the first, 1.9 million km2 of the Brazilian Amazon were affected causing crop losses of 139 million USD, an 18.5% increase in healthcare costs due to more respiratory diseases and other environmental and social losses valued in 100 million USD. During the latter, 3 million km2 of rainforest were severely affected and economic losses were even worse. Forests fires increased dramatically (200% in 2010) accelerating forest degradation and leaving the Amazon even more vulnerable to mitigate the drought.

How to deal with extreme natural phenomenon such as droughts? Not difficult: protect the ecosystem so it can regenerate itself without fatigue. In order to do so, we must halt deforestation. Currently, the Amazon is the biggest deforestation front in the world and interventions are urgently needed to prevent a large-scale, irreversible ecological disaster. WWF estimates that 27 per cent of the Amazon biome will be without trees by 2030 if the current rate of deforestation continues. Without forest cover, droughts will increase and its devastating effects will worsen.

The majority of the Amazonian forest is contained within Brazil (60% of the rainforest), followed by Peru with 13%, Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. Is this variety a political challenge? Is there a good level of cooperation between these countries? Do they share similar concerns or competing demands?                                             

While the rainforest is politically divided, the biome is one. What happens in a country will have an impact in all Amazonia. Therefore, it is a common interest of all Amazonian nations to manage the rainforest sustainably since they have a joint dependence on its natural resources and a joint exposure to regional-scale risks.

We know that water, health, food and energy security are interdependent and that they are all vulnerable to what happens in nine different countries. This seems as a huge challenge. Actually, it is. However, it is also an opportunity to strengthen public policies at a regional level. The atmosphere, rivers, species are indifferent to political boundaries and that is why all nine countries must have a Pan-Amazon vision rather than a narrow country focused one. This means, sharing information to help informed decision making, mapping and monitoring areas where water, energy, food or health security are most vulnerable, creating a regional development agenda, strengthening protected areas systems, having common basin management policies and a joint zero net deforestation target, among others. Only by having a common and coherent agenda they will be able to overcome all the pressures the Amazon is facing and ensure the wellbeing of the region.                                                                              

Climate change acting in combination with biodiversity loss has had social impacts already. One of the conclusions of a report called ‘Amazonia Security Agenda’, published by CDKN and Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano, is that ‘widespread inequity in Amazonia will be exacerbated by threats to the securities, and is likely to lead to increased social conflict unless addressed.’ Is there any plan to address this challenge?

A huge amount of wealth is being produced in the Amazon: oil extraction, mining, agriculture production, cattle ranching and hydropower produce billions of dollars in revenues annually. For instance, in 2012 Brazil received US$8.8 billion a year from iron extraction in the Pará state, Bolivia US$3.8 billion for natural gas and Ecuador US$8.9 billion for oil in 2010. Yet, little of that wealth stays in the Amazon. Ironically, in the land of plenty, local communities suffer from high insecurity. Despite being surrounded by water, few Amazonians have access to a proper water supply, treatment and a basic sanitation infrastructure. Hence, they are particularly vulnerable to pollution and to everything that comes along with it: disease, malnutrition, among others.

According to a report published by A Articulação Regional Amazônica (ARA)  http://araamazonia.org/: 60% of people in the Bolivian Amazon, 37% in Ecuador, 23% in Peru and 17% in Brazil were estimated to be below the extreme poverty line in 2011. Inequity and vulnerability will accentuate if increasing threats to food, health water and energy securities are not properly addressed. Changing this trend without shifting the development paradigm will be impossible. All Amazon countries should adopt policies that secure equal and sustainable access to food, water, energy and land. Indigenous consultation rights should be respected before approving a development project that will impact directly or indirectly their territories. According to the Amazon Environmental Information Network (RAISG), 11% of oil blocks and 18% of mining concessions overlapped recognised indigenous territories in 2012.

If these challenges are not taken serious at a local, national and regional level, land conflicts will increase, inequity will rise and the Amazon ecosystem will have to bear even more pressures affecting everyone who benefits from its services but especially the most vulnerable and poor.

This is a crucial year in the life on this planet: in December we will see the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris and the UN summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda in New York. What do you expect, realistically speaking?

We are witnessing a great and inevitable transition towards a sustainable development model. Indeed, 2015 will be a landmark year in this process. In September, countries will adopt the post-2015 development agenda and thesustainable development goals at the UN Summit. Three months later, Paris will host the Climate Change Conference (COP21) where a new global agreement will be signed. These two historic events will set a roadmap for that great transition.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals will set targets for governments and redirect public policies and investment towards accomplishing them. The same will occur with the new climate agreement. We expect the Paris agreement to set commitments ambitious enough to ensure we stay below 2ºC warming, the temperature limit for a safe climate future. It will send a clear message to all the stakeholders in the world: climate change is a top priority in the world and everyone must do its fair share to address this global problem. Governments must take seriously the path towards a low carbon economy, business must lower their emissions while becoming energy efficient, investors must divest fromfossil fuels and civil society must engage and change their carbon intensive lifestyle. That is what I expect: for everyone to be aware that the world is changing and that we must take part in that inevitable transition.

Visit the website of CDKN’s partner, the Global Canopy Programme, to view films on Amazonia and the climate security agenda, narrated by Yolanda Kakabadse.


Image credit: Rainforest Action Network

FEATURE: The Zambezi – Competing claims and climate change

Climate change is increasing the competition for freshwater resources in the Zambezi River Basin, as CDKN’s Miren Gutierrez reports.

Zambezi river Mags pics for everyone

The Zambezi River Basin is home to about 40 million people who depend on the river for fish, drinking water, agricultural irrigation, electricity production, mining, and other uses. Yet until recently, nobody had thought of examining how these competing uses might be impacted by climate change, and how this could affect some of the most important regional energy investments – hydropower plants on this shared river.

One of the challenges has been putting hydropower production in the river basin management equation, says Randall Spalding-Fecher, Project Research Director of ‘Climate Change and Upstream Development Impacts on New Hydropower Projects in the Zambezi’. This project was funded by CDKN and implemented from 2012 to 2014 by a consortium led by University of Cape Town’s Energy Research Centre, including Centre for Energy Environment Engineering Zambia, University of Zambia, University of Eduardo Mondlane, Pöyry, and OneWorld Sustainable Investments.

“While investment in power supply is catching up, the gap between electricity supply and demand in the region persists”, says Mr. Spalding-Fecher. “There is huge potential for Southern Africa to develop hydropower production as part of increasing supply, which has not kept up with population increases and economic growth. Electrification levels in many countries of the region are still some of the lowest in the world and power shortages frequently impair regional economies.”

“There are many hydropower plants in the pipeline, but the planning for these rarely considers climate change in any meaningful way and often ignores potential increases in upstream demand for other uses. Some of these plans are outdated; their designs were formulated based a historical climate that will be quite unlike the future climate”, he adds. “Although there uncertainties in the absolute magnitude of changes, we know that there is the potential for dramatic changes in rainfall patterns in Southern Africa in the next 30 or 40 years, and these hydropower plants are  expensive, long-term commitments.”

Projected climate change, economic and urban development, and population changes are expected to have sweeping consequences in the Zambezi River Basin. That is why, in 2012, CDKN set out to develop a spatial water allocation model for the Zambezi River Basin that would include hydropower plants and other infrastructure vulnerable to climate change (e.g. irrigation).

The idea was to provide scientifically robust and integrated information and tools to allow policy-makers to make informed choices on how they might respond to the impacts of climate change, and how current development plans might need to change. The objective of this work was to assess how upstream changes in climate and irrigation demand would affect water availability for major downstream hydropower plants. The analysis covered major existing plants (including the Kariba dam, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the Cahora Bassa dam, in Mozambique), extensions to existing plants, and major new plants (such as the Batoka Gorge dam, also on the Zambia–Zimbabwe border).

The analysis showed that some of these new investments are vulnerable to potential drying climate. Some new investments, such as Batoka Gorge, might struggle to produce their target output under either a wetting or drying climate.  For others, the combined effect of climate change and “prioritising irrigation demand in the upstream catchments could compromise hydropower output”, says a policy brief summarising the findings. “Over time, the combined effects of climate change and the competing uses accumulate, and these effects are more pronounced further downstream in the basin”, says Mr. Spalding-Fecher.

A final report looking at the water supply and demand scenarios warns that, ‘while future climate is subject to scientific uncertainty, the impact of irrigation is a policy uncertainty. This both because the level of irrigation investment is driven by political and economic priorities, but also because the priority given to irrigation demand versus hydropower demand for water is a political decision.’

The report offers scenarios testing the impact of different future climates and levels of irrigation development assuming that both hydropower is prioritised over irrigation, and the opposite. The reason for exploring these alternatives is not to arrive at a single ‘right’ answer, but to show the implications of different decisions and possible futures.

During this first phase of the project, CDKN sought to generate buy-in among stakeholders, including the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA), The Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), and the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM), and SADC Energy, among others.

“But we knew this was not sufficient. This (first) phase looked at individual plants, but not at the entire power system”, says Spalding-Fecher. Phase 2 will address impacts on national and regional electricity grids, by “linking water modelling with a regional electricity model in a way that is sophisticated enough to include robust projections, but user-friendly for decision-makers”. With World Bank’s financial support, Mr. Spalding-Fecher and his team are leading this second phase.

Challenges ahead…

The Zambezi is the fourth-longest river in Africa, and its basin covers about 1.37 million square kilometres across eight countries: Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Transboundary management of these shared water resources has been an ongoing challenge.

“Water management in the basin is especially difficult because countries have multiple and competing interests; inadequate basin-level institutional structures; institutional, legal, economic, and human resource constraints; poor data collection, poor communication; and inadequate training”, say Christine J. Kirchhoff and Jonathan W. Bulkley in a paper published in 2008.

In fact, one of the main challenges, according to Mr. Spalding-Fecher, is coordination. For example, so far the project has had ‘nointeraction’ with the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) –formed in 2002. “There is a long way to go in terms of coordination both across sectors and between different levels of governance (e.g. regional, sub-regional, national, basin/sub-basin)”.

Mr. Spalding-Fecher groups the existing challenges into three categories: institutional, policy-related, and technical.

“More institutional dialogue and communication is needed across sectors and countries. For example, the energy people need to talk to food people, etc.”, he says. “There is some level of dialogue across most sectors, but the energy sector tends to be less connected to any of the others. We need to bridge that gap.” There is the challenge of enabling structures, and bilateral and multilateral agreements, and policy. And there is the need for technical analysis and decision support tools to inform those discussions. Until now, there was some data and modelling available, but “they were not integrated and user-friendly enough to support that work, and were often not in the public domain”.

The solutions need to work across sectors, but also across scales. Mr. Spalding-Fecher mentions one example: “One decision we had to make was whether to look at water use by mining across the entire basin or not. At a local level, it is big issue in the Northern Zambia, where copper is mined. But if you look downstream, the other flows are large enough that mining is unlikely to impact major downstream investments … There is a historic lack of coordination across sectors and across scales. You need to look at how you use regional agreements to facilitate the best choices at national and local levels.”


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FEATURE: Making Central America’s food systems more climate-resilient

Miren Gutierrez investigates how a CDKN-supported project in Central America has produced tools to help communities assess the climate risks to their food supply and to build resilience.  


honduras farmer copyright ciat

A report published by Oxfam in 2014 says that “climate change will strongly affect the production of food and the life conditions of the farming and indigenous families in Central America. The increase in temperatures and the modification of the rainfall cycles will impact the availability of water for the food production and for the populations.”

This summer, the so-called Dry Corridor – a subtropical highland area stretching from Guatemala to Costa Rica — was hit by the most severe drought in more than four decades. “Not a drop of rain has fallen there between July and September. In Guatemala alone, some 300,000 farming families have lost 70-100 percent of their crops. In El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, the production of corn, a staple product, has fallen by over 10%. All in all, an estimated 3 million Central Americans are struggling to feed themselves,” says Jan-Albert Hootsen in a recent report for the World Politics Review.

The accumulated effects of climate change are already clear in this region. Since the 1990s, the coastline has receded about 300 metres inland in Southern Honduras, said Danilo Manzanares, member of the CREFSCA technical team, in a report published by CDKN in May 2013. In Honduras, the biggest loss of terrain happened in 1998, when hurricane Mitch touched land. Today, tides are higher and, if this trend continues, many of the black-sanded beaches of that are will be lost, together with hundreds of houses, according to the same report. Most of the affected areas, about 90%, are fishing communities.

“In Latin America and the Caribbean, in the past decade, more than 15 million people were affected by floods while more than 3 million were affected by extreme droughts and almost 5 million by extreme temperatures. Furthermore, according to the predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the increase in the number of people at risk from suffering from famine could concern 5 million people by the year 2020, and reach up to 26 million by the year 2050,” says the Oxfam report.

Central America has contributed very little to climate change, but it already endures some of the most negative consequences. That is where projects such as the Climate Resilience and Food Security in Central America (CREFSCA) come into play.

With CDKN’s support, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) launched the CREFSCA project in January 2013 in ten communities in each of the targeted countries: Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

They found that these communities had some shared “commonalities”, namely, they all have assets and linkages to external systems “that are critical to ensure food security in light of disturbances created by climate change. For example, the importance of storage (including refrigerated storage) and supporting energy systems, and access to markets and food prices which are influenced by national and international policies and processes,” says Alicia Natalia Zamudio, Project Officer of IIED’s Resilience Programme.

Using a systemic approach, “we identified that supporting resources, like water and land, are very important; that the accessibility and management systems of those natural resources were key too. We also realised that the capacities of key actors are crucial,” she says. Finally, governance aspects and local participation in decision making processes made a difference to food security in the three countries.

However, even if there are similarities, local context is also important: “Vulnerability to climate change and the differences in its cascading impacts through food systems can have diverse effects according the different exposure and adaptive capacity of people,” explains Ms Zamudio. “Coastal communities, for example, are much more reliant of fishing than inland communities, which rely more on agriculture. Some coastal communities are very isolated, and depend totally on external markets for other kinds of food. Any change in their access to food markets for example through a disruption in roads or transport systems can seriously affect their food security. The system perspective allowed us to identify these commonalities and differences.”

It is now barely a year since the project has ended, and there is evidence of some changes in the way food systems are managed. The project’s main outputs were two decision-making support tools, in the form of two spin-wheels, designed to enable community members and policy-makers to assess vulnerability and resilience of food systems, develop resilience actions and generate indicators to monitor that resilience over time.The tools were developed and tested through an iterative process grounded in practical field applications.

“Food security is looked upon from a systemic perspective where issues like storage, related infrastructure, and other supporting natural and built-in elements are taken into account. The Spin-wheels (which are the conceptual framework) and CRiSTAL Food Security tool were very useful to identify and understand the impacts chains, how the climate impacts cascade through the food system,”says Ms. Zamudio.

“With this systems conceptual approach, we also produced theFIPAT (Food Security Indicator & Policy Analysis Tool) –she adds—which focuses its analysis on the national and subnational levels, including public policies and their capacity to support resilience.”

During the project, local and regional governments have received capacity-building to use these tools in their context, improving knowledge on climate change and understanding of key concepts. “The communities we worked with were empowered by their better understanding of food security issues. They became more aware of some linkages and answers to questions that were not explicit before,” says Zamudio.

For example, users developed indicators to help them measure their resilience to climate change shocks, such as:

  • Percentage of households with family orchards or gardens, which could determine the level of vegetable consumption and the diversity of the food. “Family gardens help diversity income strategies for women, who are most of the times in charge of the household. We have found, for example, that many households that produce vegetables do not eat them (except, for onions),” says Ms Zamudio.
  • Percentage of households with more than one storage facility or percentage of households with refrigerated storage. This is linked to access to electricity and whether you can refrigerate and cook food. Cooking with electricity, instead of wood or charcoal ovens, can benefit human health by reducing indoor air pollution.
  • Percentage of paved roads, which increases access to food, as unpaved roads are even more vulnerable to climate shocks.

The results of using the tools to analyse climate risks to the food system were used to design policies for the Mancomunidad Montaña El Gigante (Guatemala), a rural community that depends almost exclusively on agriculture.

And now, in Honduras, use of the CRiSTAL Food Security Tool has spread beyond the original communities that were part of the project, because it is being used more widely by NGOs. The tools could soon be incorporated in the university curriculum of the Universidad Autonoma de Honduras (UNAH), too.

Two years down the line, the experts participating in this programme found: “[A] resilient food system is a system that is able to withstand shocks and stresses (including climatic shocks), a system that is ultimately able to deliver food security,” says Ms Zamudio. “Climate variability affects food security directly and indirectly. Climate change can directly disrupt food production and generate crop loses through climatic events, for example. Many other impacts are indirect, though. Climate change can disrupt supporting systems, like roads that take food and people to markets, and thus affect access to food.”

FEATURE: Going smart in Nepalese farming

Generating knowledge that can be integrated in ‘climate-smart’ policy and practice could be one of the keys to Nepal’s future development. Miren Gutierrez of CDKN reports. 

Small, extremely diverse and landlocked, Nepal confronts special development challenges in the face of climate change. Its orography determines that only less than 20% of its land is cultivable, yet about 39% of its GDP and 75% of its exports depend on agriculture, which is also the main source of food, income and employment for the great majority according to a reports published by Cornell and USAid.

“Nepal’s geography is incredibly diverse and complex. Within a short distance, you can see a lot of variety… Climatic conditions range from sub-tropical to Arctic,” says Ram Chandra Khanal, CDKN’s country leader, in a telephone interview. The Climate and Development Knowledge Network supports decision-makers in designing and delivering climate compatible development.

nepal farmer aubergines ccafs

Recently, there has been new evidence of increasing impacts of climate change in the agriculture sector, which, by contagion, can affect the livelihoods of millions. On the other hand, Nepalese farmers have limited access to new technologies and market opportunities.

Climate shocks can derail economic projections easily.  For example, in 2009 growth was, at 4.7%, ‘a bit slower than in the previous year as a result of prolonged winter droughts and delayed monsoons’, says a report published by USAid.  The same report notes that Nepal’s economic performance is ‘heavily dependent on subsistence rain-fed agriculture’, so output is ‘perennially susceptible to exogenous climate shocks —drought, floods, and irregular rainfall.’ USAid ends up saying that this dependence makes growth performance ‘highly erratic’.

Last month, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) projected Nepal’s economy to grow between 4-5% this fiscal year, a lower than first expected and last year, based on the assumptions of two scenarios of agricultural, industrial and service sector growth. According to the ADB ’s Macro-Economic Update on Nepal the country’s economy will grow by 4% if farm production diminishes abruptly and 5% under another scenario where agricultural output deteriorates marginally. (The scenarios take into account different performances in the industrial and service sectors too).

“Delayed and abnormal monsoon rains affected last crops like paddy (semiaquatic rice) and maize leading their output to decline by 5.1% and 6% respectively. The government has projected that winter crops like wheat will be good, but due to a decline in the summer output which contributes heavily to the total agricultural output, the farm sector is expected to rise by just 1.8%,” says a report published by ekantipur.com.

Rice is not only a staple food here, it is also Nepal’s main crop, and both the economy and the food security depend on rice production, according to another report issued by Hydro Nepal.

“The recent Economic Impact Assessment of climate change study carried out with the support from CDKN also showed that the direct losses of climate change on agriculture are equivalent to around 0.8%/year of current GDP,” reveals Mr Khanal.

That is why climate-smart agriculture is at the centre of Nepal’s strategy to develop.

Climate-smart agriculture is defined as agriculture that integrates the three dimension of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental) by incorporating adaptation and mitigation elements and addressing food security and climate issues at the same time. It promotes production systems that sustainably increase productivity and resilience (adaptation), while reducing Green House Gas emissions (mitigation), and enhancing food security and development.

Climate-smart agriculture is so fashionable nowadays that the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation has set up a dedicated web site, not surprisingly called ‘Climate-smart agriculture’. According to FAO, global food production will have to increase by at least 70% to satisfy the demand of a growing population by 2050. But climate change will to reduce food productivity, or worsen its stability in some areas that already have high levels of food insecurity.

Although there is consensus on the need for climate-smart strategies, “there are still knowledge and gaps at the methodological, policy and financial levels”, says FAO. “These gaps hinder the ability of actors of development (farm smallholders, policy makers and development agencies) to successfully implement climate smart actions.”

That is where projects like CDKN’s come into play.

Explore CDKN’s Nepal country programme on www.cdkn.org/regions/nepal

Watch this space for the second part of this two-part series on climate-smart agriculture in Nepal by Miren Gutierrez.

Image: Nepali farmer, courtesy CCAFS.


“Muchas empresas usan el análisis de datos para ver cómo se comportan sus clientes”

Es, para muchos, la profesión del futuro. Por eso, la Universidad de Deusto ha decidido lanzar en su campus de Donostia un nuevo posgrado para formar a expertos en análisis de datos.

Sábado, 14 de Febrero de 2015 – Actualizado a las 06:09h

Miren Gutierrez, directora del posgrado, posa en el campus donostiarra de la Universidad de Deusto.


“Para inscribirse, o saber más, se puede entrar en la web www.data.deusto.es”

¿Qué es el análisis de datos?

Esta es una pregunta difícil porque análisis de datos puede querer decir muchas cosas. En general, se entiende como un proceso para examinar, limpiar, estandarizar y modificar datos con el fin de poder resaltar información relevante y útil. Incluye también el digerir dicha información, y sacar conclusiones, correlaciones y comparaciones. Estos procesos se pueden utilizar para tomar decisiones, por ejemplo, en una empresa. Está ocurriendo que muchas de ellas se están apoyando cada vez más en el análisis de datos para ver cómo se comportan sus clientes. El gigante Wal-Mart descubrió así que vendía masivamente pop-tarts después de un desastre, como un huracán. Otros están tratando de desarrollar aplicaciones que, interpretando sentimientos en Twitter, puedan predecir los movimientos de las Bolsas. En periodismo se usa para extraer historias enterradas en datos, que de otra forma no se verían. El análisis de datos tiene variados aspectos y orientaciones, comprende diversas técnicas con una diversidad de nombres, en negocios, la investigación, y las ciencias sociales.

¿En qué consiste este nuevo posgrado en Análisis, Investigación y Comunicación de Datos que ofrece la Universidad de Deusto en Donostia?

En Deusto, hemos visto el nicho de los datos como una oportunidad de posicionarnos en una profesión que, según vaticinan muchos, es la profesión del futuro, y todavía no hay mucha oferta de formación. Sin embargo, según el centro de investigación tecnológica Gartner, en 2015 van a ser necesarios globalmente 4,4 millones de personas formadas en el campo del análisis de datos y su explotación. Roberto Rigobon, profesor del Centro Sloan de Administración de Empresas del MIT, dice que no existe una carrera universitaria de análisis de datos todavía y que quien se dedique a esto tiene que saber un poco de ingeniería, derecho, sociología, psicología, economía, y yo añadiría de periodismo y de comunicación, porque luego ese análisis hay que saber transmitirlo se trabaje en el ámbito que se trabaje. Por eso, hemos querido que sea muy multidisciplinar e innovador. En vez de preguntarnos qué puede ofrecer tal o cual facultad, hemos pensando qué necesitaría un profesional para moverse en este nuevo sector, y hemos ido a buscar a los y las mejores en varias facultades y de varias disciplinas, tanto dentro de la universidad como fuera.

¿A quién va dirigido?

A cualquier que tenga algo que ver con la transmisión de datos, ya sea para consumo interno como para hacerlos públicos. Es decir, cualquier titulado o titulada superior, así como profesiones de la comunicación, la administración pública, el sector privado, las ONG o centros de investigación y think tanks que deseen explotar las oportunidades que ofrecen los datos y los instrumentos que existen para analizarlos y comunicarlos.

¿Qué salidas profesionales tiene?

En Deusto pensamos que en el futuro muchas empresas, organizaciones y entidades tendrán analistas trabajando codo a codo con el resto. Las capacidades para discriminar, tratar, interpretar y comunicar datos son clave y tienen ya cabida en medios de comunicación, gabinetes de prensa, administraciones públicas, unidades de análisis de datos en empresas, centros de investigación y think tanks, organizaciones no gubernamentales, centros tecnológicos, consultorías estratégicas, centros de innovación y organizaciones para la promoción social.

Explique cómo se organiza el curso: las asignaturas, el método de estudio, las clases, etc.

Las clases se han adaptado totalmente a las exigencias de profesionales que deben compaginar el trabajo con el estudio y la preparación, en régimen de viernes tarde y sábado mañana. Los y las participantes no van a clase a obtener conocimientos sólo, sino a debatirlos y ponerlos a prueba en la práctica. Las asignaturas incluyen periodismo de datos, transparencia y derecho a saber, marco legal, ético y conceptual del análisis de datos, modelos de negocio, innovación y aprendizaje, herramientas para el análisis, investigación, comunicación y visualización de datos. Otro de los atractivos del Programa es nuestra alianza con el MediaLab-Prado, un centro de referencia para la cultura del dato, de quien tomamos la metodología para realizar el proyecto que cada participante desarrollará con ayuda de nuestros profesores y profesoras. Los y las participantes podrán traer un proyecto de sus empresas u organizaciones debajo del brazo para poder desarrollarlo durante el curso, y éste se presentará en el marco del MediaLab-Prado.

¿Quién imparte el posgrado?

Entre los profesores y profesoras tenemos a varios doctores del prestigioso instituto de tecnología DeustoTech, y expertos y expertas en derecho de las tecnologías de la comunicación, contenidos digitales, transparencia y open data, periodismo, análisis y visualización de datos, etc. Hemos reunido a personas de la talla de Mar Cabra, del Consorcio Internacional de Periodistas de Investigación (que ha coordinado la investigación de la Lista Falciani); Alberto Cairo, ganador de prestigiosos premios de visualización de datos y actualmente en la Universidad de Miami; Alberto Ortiz de Zarate, conocido experto en open data; Nagore de los Ríos, otra experta de referencia en asuntos de transparencia, por citar a unos cuantos.

¿Cómo surgió la idea de crear un posgrado como este?

Surgió de una reflexión para adaptarse a los tiempos que corren y para ofrecer programas que brinden una preparación para el futuro desde la base de la reputación y el trabajo realizado hasta la fecha por la universidad de Deusto.

¿Cómo cree que puede beneficiar a un profesional realizar este posgrado?

Además de las habilidades que adquirirán, de las que he hablado antes, podrá también formar parte de una red de personas (en nuestro entorno, pioneras) que trabajan con datos, tanto los y las docentes como compañeros y compañeras de clase. Asimismo, como he apuntado antes, animamos a los y las participantes a que se acerquen con un proyecto debajo del brazo. Durante tres meses, tendrán la oportunidad de apoyarse en expertos y expertas que les podrán ayudar a ponerlo en pie.

¿Qué hay que hacer para inscribirse? ¿Cómo es el proceso de admisión?

Estamos ya sobre las fechas, pero es muy sencillo. Simplemente hay que o bien entrar en la web del programa (www.data.deusto.es) y solicitar la admisión o bien directamente llamarme a mí o a la Secretaría del Programa, cuya información también está incluida en la página web.