Tuesday, June 26, 2012

After Rio - Grassroots

Frances G. Beinecke, President of the NRDC and Trip Van Noppen, President of Earthjustice, summarized in an NYT Op-Ed that the lack of representation and agreement at the Rio+20 summit wrapping up on June 21 leaves a vacuum that must be dealt with at the grassroots level:

Collectively, we must force our government leaders and our corporations to do what is right for our planet and its resources. We must press them to implement the commitments they made at Rio+20, and the commitments they made in other international agreements as well. And we must hold them accountable when they don’t. As we learned at Rio+20, government negotiators and thick documents can’t save the planet. But as we also learned, we can, and we must do it now.

A further report-out from Rio is posted here on Reuters. In a nutshell, over 120 nations signed off on general sustainable development goals.

What's being left out of all of these positions is that the fundamental methodologies aren't changing, even though there are resources and funding pledges to the third-world countries. The old technologies and approaches are not being revised to account for the Natural Capital methodology which uses grids and hubs of smaller projects integrated with natural ecosystems. For example, International Rivers points out on June 19 that the World Bank must revise their development strategy and implement a series of small ecosystem improvements instead of the large, destructive projects they have insisted on funding:

 Recent reports have signaled that new renewable technologies are approaching grid parity and will be more effective in meeting the world's energy needs. A 2010 World Bank report found that 65 million people in Africa will gain access to safe and clean lighting through solar by 2015, while a 2012 Bloomberg New Energy Finance report stated that grid-connected photovoltaics in Africa have already become competitive. The International Energy Agency has stated that the energy needs of 70% the world's rural poor could be met by investment in small, decentralized infrastructure technologies.

International Rivers' report finds that the majority of rural poor live closer to local sources of renewable energy and water than to an electric grid and centralized irrigation systems. As a result, decentralized projects that address the needs of the poor directly are more effective at promoting broad-based economic growth and reducing poverty than grid expansion and construction of centralized mega-projects. Small-scale energy and water projects can also strengthen climate resilience, reduce the social and environmental footprint of the infrastructure sector, and strengthen democratic control over essential public services.

Large infrastructure lending has regained focus as world leaders search for ways to stimulate growth. The World Bank has recently indicated it will return to large infrastructure lending, having issued its own new infrastructure strategy in 2011. International Rivers' report calls on Jim Yong Kim, who will take office as the World Bank's new President in July, to replace the institution's top-down approach to infrastructure with a strategy that prioritizes the needs of the poor.

 So, lacking leadership in this issue - particularly from the USA, Germany and Britain - as well as a framework for drastically reducing carbon emissions immediately, the outlook appears bleak for true regenerative processes. One can only hope that these grassroots efforts can ultimately prevail over the iron grip of corporate and Wall Street malfeasance, rather than allow these entities to dress it up as "sustainable growth". This only leads to the inevitable predicted collapse.