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issue 4, July - August 2001



Newsletter index

Clean Energy Conference feedback

Francis Caas, GLOBE Southern Africa’s Executive Director, reports back on the recent International Legislators’ Conference on Clean Energy in Maryland, USA.

GLOBE members from Africa, North America, Europe and Asia met at the Wye River Conference Centre in Maryland from 13-15 July 2001 to discuss energy and climate change related issues. The conference, hosted by GLOBE USA, enabled members of parliament to interact and debate with NGO and business representatives, scientists and researchers on ways to promote clean energy policies.

In view of the recent decision by the Bush administration to turn its back on the Kyoto Protocol, much of the discussion revolved around climate change and the consequences of the US withdrawal.

Congressmen from both the Democratic and Republican parties attended the GLOBE meeting and expressed strong views on the state of the climate change negotiations.

‘If the US does not want to take the lead on Kyoto, then the other nations will have to go it alone’, said Congressman John Olver. Another US Representative, Wayne Gilchrest, added that ‘there are many members of the House and Senate who would like to see the United States take a strong leadership role and fully engage in the climate change negotiations.

‘Whenever President Bush speaks, he does not speak for Washington or the US’, Gilchrest said.

Members of Parliament from industrialised and developing countries made it clear that although each nation bears responsibility for lowering its carbon emissions, the US, as the largest greenhouse gas emitter, has a special obligation to take immediate action.

Mrs Gwendoline Mahlangu, member of the South African Parliament and Acting President of GLOBE Southern Africa, criticised the US stance regarding participation by developing countries.

‘Countries from the south are doing more with less to combat global climate change, while the US, with unlimited resources, is doing little to correct the problem’, she said. Her colleagues from the South African parliament, Mrs Lindiwe Mbuyazi and Mrs Rita Ndzanga, added that developed nations should live up to their promise and support developing countries both financially and through clean technology transfers.

Representatives from GLOBE Southern Africa reiterated that for most people in developing countries access to affordable energy is absolutely crucial to their development and that without adequate energy supply, economic development and poverty alleviation are virtually impossible.

The various speakers present at the conference, made it clear that ‘the energy transition is on our doorstep’, as Christopher Flavin, President of the WorldWatch Institute, said.

It was noted that there exists huge potential for developing countries to leapfrog their technology gap with regard to energy. Opening up the energy grid to new players, introducing steady and long-term tax incentives, and introducing public procurement programmes, were cited as ways to achieve this.

For more information on this conference access the GLOBE USA website at: www.globeusa.org or e-mail: tbagley@globeusa

Wilderness adventure

The Wilderness Leadership School Trust invites parliamentarians and environmental leaders to one of four 4 day ‘bush workshops’.

The Wilderness Leadership School Trust is calling on parliamentarians and key community environmental leaders to attend their Opinion Leader ‘entry point’ Trail Programme.

The trails (listed below) are open to any Southern and East African Member of Parliament, and all costs of the trail are covered by the Trust. The only expense parliamentarians will incur is transport to and from the major city adjoining the reserve. The aim of the programme is to bring together parliamentarians and key community environmental leaders on four day wilderness trails as a source of quality experience, which will aid networking between formal and grassroots opinion leaders.

The venue and dates for the remaining trails this year are:

  • 31st August – 1/2nd/3rd September – Umfolozi – KwaZulu Natal – 8 participants
  • 23 – 26th November – Umfolozi –KwaZulu Natal – 6 participants
  • 27th – 30th September - Baviaanskloof - Eastern Cape – 6 participants
  • 04 - 07 October - Baviaanskloof – Eastern Cape – 6 participants (date to follow)

For more information on these trails and to reserve a place on them you can contact Lorraine Short on Tel: (27) (31) 4628685 or Fax (27) (31) 4628675

Environment Monitor

GLOBE Southern Africa looks at important environmental developments over the last few months

Kyoto is go

Despite problems, an historic agreement
is reached on the Kyoto Protocol

Delegates from 178 nations reached an historic agreement in Bonn, Germany on the 23rd July 2001 with regards to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol. The agreement, struck after many sleepless nights of negotiations should now see countries ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, allowing it to enter into force before next September’s World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa.

The Kyoto Protocol, agreed to in 1997 after years of international negotiations, aims to arrest the growing threat of climate change by forcing industrialised countries to take on legally binding reduction targets of their greenhouse gases. In terms of this protocol each industrialised country has been given a different national target, with an average overall reduction target of 5.2 percent for the entire industrialised world. The final details of this protocol were supposed to have been agreed on at the sixth Conference of the Parties in The Hague last November. That meeting broke down after the different parties were unable to agree on the specifics of the protocol. Subsequent to that meeting, the new United States President George W. Bush threw the process into even further disarray with his statement in March that he does not support the Kyoto Protocol and will not be submitting it to the Congress for ratification. His move drew widespread condemnation from the rest of the world.

The agreement reached in Bonn is significant as it signals the rest of the international community's resolve to press ahead with the Kyoto Protocol without the inclusion of the United States.

‘(The Kyoto agreement) is a victory for the peoples of the world and a boost to the success of the World Summit’ – Minister Valli Moosa

In the words of South Africa's Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Valli Moosa, ‘It is a victory for the peoples of the world and a boost to the success of the World Summit. The successful conclusion of these negotiations means that the World Summit agenda can be focused on other substantial issues critical for development and poverty alleviation in the developing world.’

It is now up to individual countries to ratify the protocol and devise national strategies capable of reaching reduction targets. In the meantime, the United States is still trying to come up with their promised alternative plan to the Kyoto Protocol, which they claim is fatally flawed and will end up impacting negatively on their economy. The US move away from the Kyoto Protocol means they are becoming increasingly isolated on this issue and the subject of much international criticism. It is clear from this agreement in Bonn that the world views the Kyoto Protocol as the best option in terms of a first step towards staving off the global threat of climate change.

Failing the Whales

The International Whaling Commission vetoes
a proposed south Pacific whale sanctuary.

Delegates attending the 53rd International Whaling Commission in London in July voted against the joint Australian and New Zealand proposal for a whale sanctuary in the South Pacific Ocean. Twenty countries voted in favour of the sanctuary and thirteen against it. To pass, the proposal needed a two thirds majority.

Antarctic agreement

A decision is reached on the location of the
Secretariat for the Antarctic Treaty System.

Delegates attending a meeting in July of the Antarctic Treaty System in St. Petersburg, Russia agreed on Buenos Aires as the permanent location for its secretariat. The Antarctic Treaty System came into force 42 years ago, with the aim of demilitarising the Antarctic continent and providing for its co-operative exploration and future use. In 1991, the Madrid Protocol designated Antarctica a natural reserve devoted to peace and science.

Danes doing it for themselves

Renewable energy is not a marginal solution. A project to make a Danish island entirely energy-self sufficient by using sophisticated renewable energy systems is showing the way for Africa. Mette Nedergaard, of the Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Partnership, WWF Denmark explains how.

The Island of Samsoe in Denmark will be self-sufficient with renewable energy by 2007. In a Renewable Energy Island project, Samsoe intends to demonstrate practical ways of shifting from fossil fuel based energy systems to renewable energy systems while also reducing the consumption of energy.

The initiative to establish a Renewable Energy Island (REI) is based on the Danish government’s energy action plan Energy 21 from 1996. One of the targets of Energy 21 is for renewable energy sources to provide 35 percent of the country’s consumption of energy by 2030. Denmark’s emissions of CO2 per inhabitant rank among the highest in the world and the application of renewable energy is an important part of the government’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

With 4 400 inhabitants, Samsoe is small, located in the Kattegat Sea east of the Jutland peninsula. It is 114 kmē of which 75 percent is agricultural and forest land. Tourism, however, is the main industry, closely followed by agriculture, which employs some 20 percent of the work-force. The island is well-known for its potato and asparagus crops.

In early 1997, the Samsoe Energy Company was established to implement the renewable energy island (REI) project. The company consisted of representatives from the Samsoe municipality, the Commercial Council, the Farmers’ Association and the Energy and Environmental Office. Its objective was to ensure the overall project plan was realised with due consideration given to local issues.

Local engagement in the project has been essential from the outset, and major efforts have been undertaken to involve the citizens in a democratic process. In June 1997, a citizens meeting was held inviting all the inhabitants of the island to discuss ideas for the REI project. During the meeting, it was decided to establish a Samsoe Environment and Energy Association. Today, the association has more than 100 members, and has an established Samsoe Environment and Energy Office responsible for the co-ordination of the REI project.

Wind, solar energy, bio-mass, and bio-gas

Samsoe has excellent potential for renewable energy. Both solar radiation and average wind speed are above average for the country, and the islands’ bio-mass resources are abundant. In order to cover the entire energy demand from local resources, energy savings of approximately 20 percent have been included in the plan.

The project introduces of number of renewable energy sources including wind, solar energy, bio-mass, and bio-gas. To ensure the best exploitation of Samsoe’s bio-mass resources, like livestock manure, straw and wood, the homes in the major villages will have their need for heating and hot water covered by joint district heating systems. Ultimately, 18 villages will be supplied by 5 joint district heating systems (one existing). Besides local bio-mass, the heat supply will be based on solar heating and excess heat from local industries and the ferries. By 2007, district heating will supply 64 percent of the total heat and hot water demand on Samsoe.

Outside the district heating areas, solar heating systems, bio-mass, bio-gas, wind energy and heat pumps will be used to heat houses and farms. So far, more than 60 solar water heaters, 35 heat pumps and 50 wood-pellet boilers have been installed.

Wind turbines will dominate the electricity supply. During 2000, 11 land-based wind turbines were erected, seeing to 75 percent of the electricity demand. Two of these are owned co-operatively and 9 are privately owned. The remaining 25 percent of the electricity supply will be produced from bio-gas plants and combined heat and power plants fuelled with straw, wood pills and elephant grass.

Electric buses

In the transport sector, a full conversion to renewable energy is not possible within the project period. In order to compensate for a continued use of fossil fuels, an off shore wind turbine park with a total capacity of 25 MW (10 turbines) will be erected in 2002. The local buses as well as 50 percent of the private cars will be driven by electricity. Pilot projects teaching people to drive energy efficiently and the rescheduling of the local mail services are also expected to lead to fuel savings

Expenses and savings

The environmental benefits from the project are significant. Firstly, CO2 and SO2 emissions from energy production will be eliminated. As the off-shore wind turbines substitute electricity produced in coal and gas fired plants on the mainland, emissions are reduced from these plants, which, it is assumed, off-sets emissions of CO2, SO2 and particles from transport activities on Samsoe. NOx emissions will also be reduced by 50 percent.

Around 40 new local jobs will be created during project implementation. Although these jobs are temporary, in the long run, the operation and maintenance of the renewable energy systems are estimated to provide 30 new permanent jobs.

The full conversion to renewable energy is estimated to require a total investment of around R550m. Investment in wind technologies dominate (R300m), followed by bio-mass (R100m), heat pumps and energy savings (each R40m), bio-gas (R30m) and solar energy (R25m). In order to avoid a rise in the present energy price level for the end consumers, a state subsidy of R64m will be necessary . Annually, fuel savings are expected to be close to R50m and will used to pay for bio-fuels, labour, services and financing costs.

Danish subsidies, funds and systems

A number of different subsidies for renewable energy technologies are available in Denmark. Small boilers based on bio-mass and heat pumps may receive a subsidy of up to 15 percent of the investment costs. For solar heaters, the subsidy may be up to 30 percent of the investment costs.

In addition, the production of electricity from renewable energy is subsidised. Today, the transmission companies are obliged to buy renewable energy based electricity from individual producers at a regulated price of 30 cents/kWh. In addition, the producer receives a green certificate with a value of 90 cents/kWh.

The Danish electricity market is in the process of being liberalised. In a fully open market (2003), the producers of electricity from renewable energy sources will have to sell their electricity at the market price to the distribution companies or directly to end consumers. In addition, the producers will receive green certificates from the system operator according to their production. All consumers will be obliged to buy a minimum amount of green certificates on a green market that is to be established.

Finally, a local fund for renewable energy projects has been established. The fund is based on annual contributions from the privately owned wind turbine owners.

Financial models

A number of different financing models are applied in the project. A common model for financing is used for the district heating projects in order to ensure the same heat price for all citizens. A regional energy utility, ARKE, is responsible for the establishment of new heating systems. In order to convince the consumers to be connected to the new district heating systems, ARKE had to be able to sell heat at a lower price than the existing heat supply. The Samsoe municipality has issued a municipal guarantee for the new district heating systems in order to ensure this.

Outside the district heating areas, ARKE has offered a savings guarantee for investments in a system of combined solar heating and heat pumps. If the estimated savings in the costs of energy supply are not realised, an insurance company will cover the difference. Also, for some consumers, ARKE has financed the heating system and the consumer continues to pay the ‘old’ heat price until the system has been paid off.

The Samsoe Energy Company offers private investors assistance in purchasing energy equipment on a large scale so as to reduce the capital costs. So far, 17 farmers have established a wholesale society for small wind turbines

African application

The REI project on Samsoe introduces a concept of integrated renewable energy supply systems where a mix of technologies are used to cover all energy demands as opposed to the traditional application of individual renewable energy technologies covering only a part of the consumers demand for energy.

The concept is not restricted to physical islands but can be applied in any community both in highly developed urban areas and in remote rural areas. The benefits, be they environmental, social or economic, are independent of location. It is a flexible way of utilising local resources, and adaptation into the existing energy system is possible. It is especially well suited to fit the patterns of multiple fuel use that characterise low-income households in Southern Africa and other developing areas.

Renewable energy resources in Southern Africa are abundant in comparison with many other countries; indeed they are greater than Danish resources. Since renewable energy technologies can operate individually and can be connected to the power grid, they can be applied both for bulk production of electricity for the grid and for covering local energy demand.

Benefits for Southern Africa

The introduction of integrated renewable energy systems in Southern Africa would have a number of benefits:

  • It provides an opportunity to develop a range of different ways of organising and financing energy systems, thus introducing new energy suppliers in the market. This could promote a more homogenous energy market that will allow market forces to work more efficiently and probably reduce energy prices to the benefit of all consumers.
  • Integrated renewable energy systems would be an alternative to the traditional electrification process that could promote economic development in rural areas more effectively. It is a well-proven fact that renewable energy technologies are more labour intensive than fossil fuel technologies. The daily operation and maintenance takes place locally, and Southern African manufacturing industries could benefit from establishing the local production of technologies or components.
  • Well suited to small-scale projects, renewable energy solutions allow for community investment and local ownership, which would reduce the costs of administration and transmission as well as the losses from transporting energy across long distances.
  • Diversification of energy sources and of technologies improves the security of supply. In Denmark, a combination of large energy plants and decentralised energy supply systems has improved the security of supply and at the same time reduced the need for excess capacity in case of break-downs and extreme peak load situations.
  • Finally, renewable energy technologies offer profound environmental benefits to all levels of society. They address the challenge of climate change efficiently, far beyond that of other technologies. In addition, local pollutants are decreased thus improving air quality and health conditions.

Southern Africa's abundant renewable energy resources give it an obvious advantage in becoming a leader in the development of integrated renewable energy systems, as well as spurring on local manufacturers and building a domestic market for renewable energy technologies as a foundation for future export.

Problems in Southern Africa

A number of existing barriers must be eliminated.

  • Firstly, the present energy prices must reflect the full cost of production including environmental externalities, so that a fair competition between renewable energy and fossil fuel based technologies can be established.
  • Secondly, independent power producers must be able to obtain a license and have access to the power grid.
  • Thirdly, local financing institutions must be willing and able to provide financing.
  • Finally, local support and engagement is essential for a project like the Samsoe project. Engagement must be provided through democratic processes so that all involved parties understand the project and are able to identify their roles and responsibilities.
The Earth Justice Movement

A new South African-based initiative, The Earth Justice Movement, gets off the ground in Cape Town. Sheila Dutton outlines its vision and goals.

Though the idea for the Earth Justice Movement was conceptualised more than a year ago by Cormac Cullinan, it was formed by a small but diverse group of people in the gardens of the Spier Estate near Cape Town on 30 March 2001. The Movement seeks to work with people everywhere to begin creating the kind of society and world we want and need.

The meeting, organised and funded by the Gaia Foundation in the person of Liz Hosken, included environmental lawyers, environmental activists, bio-diversity lobbyists opposing GM, environmental educators, horticulturalists, an architect who builds straw bale houses, a wilderness trails guide, an ex-gang member now working with troubled youth in conflict-ridden communities, a Green Party politician, a sangoma, a psychologist, several energetic representatives of local environmental youth groups.

Globalisation and the ‘trade at all costs’ value system that is dominating the world, is leading to unprecedented inequality and destruction of the fabric of societies and ecosystems

Fundamental to EJM’s workings is the Gaia underpinning that mankind is but one element in an integrated world. The view that the human species is the pinnacle of the evolutionary process and that we have dominion over the earth and all of creation has had disastrous consequences for the natural world. A shift in consciousness is needed and this is what EJM is all about.

There are numerous initiatives and practices emerging round the globe where social justice and ecological respect are the underlying principles. The vision of the EJM is to link up these existing initiatives and networks and to provide a focus which will act like a lens to create a spark of excitement and energy that ignites other groups and individuals. At this stage the emphasis is on meeting together to define the vision that unites people who are working to change the way we relate to the earth, and to encourage them to express their perspectives in different ways.

There are two critical references for the movement:

Firstly, indigenous traditions and knowledge that embody a greater understanding of how ecosystems and communities function and are nurtured.

Secondly, nature, parks, game reserves, green spaces, wilderness, where people can get a sense of perspective of themselves and their relationships to the source of life, unhampered by human interventio

Threats to the earth and to social justice

Governments and large institutions seem incapable of inspiring and mobilising people to want to make personal and professional commitments to justice and respect for the human community, future generations and other species.

Globalisation and the ‘trade at all costs’ value system that is dominating the world, is leading to unprecedented inequality and destruction of the fabric of societies and ecosystems. Despite all the research and information available to governments and international institutions including UN bodies, World Bank, IMF and larger NGOs that are responsible for managing the world, little of significance is being achieved. Environmental legislation, agreements, protocols are regularly being drafted or re-drafted, but with little benefit or effect for civil society and nature. On the contrary, one has a sense of the situation worsening, when powerful governments like the Bush administration renege on the Kyoto agreement, demonstrating yet again their total lack of commitment to limit huge short term profits in favour of less damaging environmental measures. This, despite the unavoidable truth that human beings are dependent on the earth and that by threatening the life support systems of the Earth, and other species, we are violating our own survival and quality of life – psychological, moral, spiritual, as well as physical.

The growth of the EJM

As we have seen in South Africa, it is ultimately the people who change the environment in which governments and corporations operate, thereby forcing them either to adapt or fail to flourish in accordance with evolutionary principles.

Many people have a sense that the conditions for radical change already exist, and that social and environmental activists have started linking up with each other and are beginning to "signal" change. The process is very similar to when a whole flock of birds changes direction as one bird. Initially a few individuals signal their desire to turn by momentarily changing direction and then returning to the original flight path. Eventually the intention spreads through the flock and when the next small signal happens they all change direction to follow a new flight path.

Already strong links have been established amongst people and organisations in South Africa and further afield, including Ethiopia, Angola, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Sweden, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Form of the Movement

For most people all that has been necessary is to introduce them to the EJM vision and then let them respond spontaneously in their own ways. However, in many situations there is a call for the movement to have some structure and identifying logo or symbol. The current challenge facing the EJM is how to have coherence yet minimal control and centralisation, and maximum spontaneity and imagination. This tension can be best illustrated by the following extract from a report by Vladimir Russo, a young Angolan who has been seconded by the Ecological Youth of Angola to the SADC Regional Environmental Education Programme based at the Wildlife & Environment Society of SA (WESSA) in Howick, outside Pietermaritzburg. He has recently returned from a trip to Sweden and writes:

‘From my side I have been getting in touch with different people and discussing issues on the future of the EJM. At the end of May I attended a Youth Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development in Sweden and had the opportunity to discuss with some people ideas around the EJM. In principle, most of them identified themselves with the idea and projects The main problem was that people would like to have more 'solid' information on the movement (logo and statement)..’

Several nodes have spontaneously developed in various parts of South Africa such as Cape Town, Gauteng, Howick and Durban and other main centres, including London and Addis Ababa, which act as reference points of contact, encouragement, help with identifying and celebrating best practice, assistance with focussing of policy priorities, etc. Already these nodes are assisting the EJM in maximising use of the World Wide Web, Internet and e-mails to communicate quickly and graphically with millions of people eventually. In addition a communications centre is being created in Cape Town to assist the movement with its involvement in several exciting developments in South Africa.

Events and the EJM

The EJM has been invited to participate in two important forthcoming international events in South Africa:

  • the 7th World Wilderness Congress which takes place in Port Elizabeth from 2-8 November 2001
  • the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, from 2-11 November 2002

Activities of the EJM

On a practical level the EJM has identified the following three activities where its energies will be focussed:

1. To document and celebrate positive initiatives around the world, so that the wider public is inspired to participate in this energetic, constructive movement. This will take the form of:

  • Inviting people in each country to start co-ordinating, documenting and celebrating examples of good practice and innovations that are contributing to greater justice in society, justice towards other species and ecosystems, and justice for future generations of all life forms. This is already being done.
  • Joining others around the planet over a two or more week period towards the end of 2002 (dates to be fixed) in a Whole Earth Celebration for all Life, in each country, including South Africa.
  • Encouraging people from all walks of life to make personal and collective commitments to enhance justice at home and at work over the next decade, when another Whole Earth People’s Celebration and Evaluation will be held.
  • Inviting groups of people, particularly different professions or areas of human activity to actively envision what their area of specialisation would look like were we already living in an Earth-centric human society. This will not only help develop a sustaining vision to guide us into the future but will also unleash enormous creative power as we collectively dream such a future.

2. To name and challenge the problems and promote conditions for better practice by:

  • Identifying the core critical issues that are generating social and ecological inequities and destruction.
  • Developing clear critiques and campaigns with which the public can identify and participate (For example, corporate accountability, ecological debt, food security, climate justice).
  • Pressurise governments to implement policies and governance mechanisms that scale-up good practice and deter destruction practices, with effective public accountability processes.

3. To develop a rigorous Earth Jurisprudence (philosophical legal base) which embodies the recognition that we are part of, and dependent on, the planetary ecosystem. This will provide the philosophical foundations for the development of more appropriate laws to govern behaviour on all levels of human society (individuals, governments, institutions, corporations etc), as well as within the human community, between humans and other species, and between present and future generations. In particular, these laws would reflect a re-alignment of societal values, from the existing framework which views the planet ecosystems as "resources" which humans are free to exploit (anthropocentric), to one which requires humans to play a more responsible role within a wider community of species on this planet (eco-centric or bio-centric).

For more information contact: enact@law.co.za or gaia@gaianet.org
or sheila@ecosystem.co.za