2014 UNA-USA Annual Meeting: Dr. Robert Orr on Climate Change

By Weijia Li, UNA-SNY Energy Project

At this year’s UNA-USA Annual Meeting, I had the privilege of listening to a talk by the UN Assistant Secretary-General Dr. Robert Orr, who is also the most senior American at the UN. He focused on and stressed the significance of climate change, for several compelling reasons.

We cannot, he says, advance the Millenium Development Goals if climate change continues at this rate. Climate change affects every piece of the UN agenda and affects everything the UN is trying to do today for everyone, everywhere in the world. It is the underlying factor for peace, security, and development.

However, the UN needs the help of the US. The rest of the world also expects US leadership on climate change. So as Americans, we need to put forth rational energy policies that accelerate the use of renewables and to catalyze a clean energy revolution. Rather than wasting money on temporary fixes, we need to combat climate change directly. This will save us trillions of dollars in the future.

Every year that we delay action on climate change, the cost goes up for mitigating its effects. Even the Middle East has installed clean energy projects. I thought it was particularly compelling when Dr. Orr said, “If the Middle East can see the future, why can’t [the US]?”

The upcoming UN Climate Summit on September 23, 2014 in New York will be the largest gathering of global leaders in history in one place. The Climate Summit is strategically scheduled to occur during this year’s annual Climate Week NYC and one year prior to the 2015 UNFCCC Climate Change Conference in Paris. It is stated that “by catalyzing action on climate change prior to the UNFCCC Conference, the Secretary-General intends to build a solid foundation on which to anchor successful negotiations and sustained progress on reducing emissions and strengthening adaptation strategies.”

My call to action for Americans is to write to your Congressman/woman and Senators to urge the US Mission to the UN to establish concrete goals at this year’s UN Climate Summit.

On a more personal note, I know that Dr. Orr’s wife Audrey Choi leads Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing and Global Sustainable Finance Group. With this in mind, I spoke with Dr. Orr after his talk and asked for his perspective on tackling climate change from the public/NGO sector vs. the private sector. He told me that the two are very different, but to be successful, we need to know both sides because both sides need to work together. This was reminiscent of a similar conversation I had with the Senior Policy Advisor on Energy to the UN Secretary-General.

What this means for all world citizens is that no matter what sector we identify ourselves in, we can make an impact to slow down climate change.

Consultation on Ethanol Cookstoves at the United Nations

By Brandon Huck, UNA-SNY Energy Project

On April 4th, 2013, the Public-Private Alliance Foundation (PPAF) convened a consultation at the United Nations (U.N.) to provide an update on its pilot project involving the use of ethanol cookstoves and fuels in Haiti. The meeting was co-sponsored by PPAF and the UN Office for Partnerships, and included other interested parties, such as Path To Haiti Business Consulting LLC, SImACT, Inc., and Project Gaia, Inc.   The United Nations Association Southern New York State Division and its Energy Project supported the event.

The consultation brought together actors from a variety of sectors and diverse organizations with a goal of discussing the pilot project and coming to agreement on next steps and priorities for its expansion. In addition, the meeting functioned as a vehicle to increase awareness and knowledge among its participants of the benefits and potential of ethanol cookstoves and clean cooking fuels as alternatives to traditional cooking methods and materials in Haiti. In that country, the majority of cooking is still done using charcoal and wood-burning stoves, practices which often result in unclean and unsafe conditions that disproportionately and negatively affect mothers and children by exposing them to serious health and safety risks, such as a higher incidence of respiratory ailments and diseases.

Participants in the consultation met first in a plenary session and then in small groups to discuss the specific challenges and opportunities associated with PPAF’s pilot project, as well as the possibility of broader commercialization of ethanol cookstoves in Haiti. Several presenters referenced the pilot’s unique status as the first project of its kind in Haiti. Through relations with Dometic Group AB – a manufacturer of ethanol cookstoves Project Gaia, Inc., which donated an initial supply of stoves for the pilot –and other partners on the ground in Haiti, PPAF and Path to Haiti have been able to introduce hundreds of Haitians to the ethanol cookstoves. The pilot participants and observers have included low-income mothers, community organization representatives, small business owners, government officials, and employees at a participating hotel, providing for diverse perspectives on the efficacy and usability of the stoves and fuel.

Participants in the consultation learned about the many advantages offered by ethanol cookstoves. One is the ability to tap into a growing desire by Haitians at all societal levels to overcome the poverty-respiratory disease-deforestation trap caused by Haiti’s heavy reliance on cooking with wood or charcoal. As an alcohol-based fuel, ethanol is considered a ‘clean fuel’ and offers a healthier alternative to cooking with petroleum-based fuels. The ethanol cookstoves take less time to cook food versus the traditional methods employed. In addition, clean cookstove models would leverage existing equipment and technology in Haiti, and create a new value stream for farmers and distillers if mass production of ‘fuel-grade’ ethanol alcohol could be made viable.

From an economic perspective, the commercialization of ethanol cookstoves might benefit Haiti more generally. For one, it could spur increased demand and innovation in sugar cane production, which is currently imported in larger quantities than it is grown locally – a surprising fact given Haiti’s long history of sugar cane farming. Furthermore, the transition to ethanol cookstoves may provide an attractive investment option to the Haitian diaspora, who annually give approximately $3 billion to family and friends in Haiti and support various social causes and business enterprises.

Lastly, the pilot project supports the goal of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which aims for100 million households worldwide to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by the year 2020.

UN Announces Energy Decade

Our Energy Blog begain with the 2012 Year of Sustainable Energy for All.  The UNA Southern New York State Division’s Energy Project has a small steering committee which meets bi-monthly.  The group organizes and participates in events related to energy and to sustainable development;  it communicates through unaenergy@googlegroups.com  To join, please send an email to jbs@stratdev.com 

On 21 December 2012 the United Nations General Assembly unanimously declared the decade 2014‑2024 as the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All, underscoring the importance of energy issues for sustainable development and for the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda. 

At its March meeting the Division’s Energy Group agreed to support this Decade as a basis for its program and actions in the coming years.  The Energy Group also agreed to support an event to be held at the United Nations on April 4 by the Public-Private Alliance Foundation.  This Consultation on Ethanol Cookstoves and Fuels (with an emphasis on Haiti) focuses on clean energy and reduction of the deforestation that is prevalent in Haiti.  The consultation also will promote use of the ethanol cookstoves and fuel worldwide.

Doha Climate Change Conference – COP 18

http://www.cop18.qa/en-us/News/SingleStory.aspx?ID=296  

text verbatim

“The President of COP18/CMP8 hailed the agreement reached after two-weeks of grueling negotiations as a “Gateway to the future”.  Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah said the final extra day of the UN Climate Change Conference had been historic as all parties had reached consensus despite complications and many hours of extra consultation.

The “Doha Climate Gateway” – as Mr. Al-Attiyah called the deal – marked the beginning of discussions on a universal, legally-binding international agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which should be ratified in 2015 and come into force by 2020. “This is a gateway to the future, even beyond 2020,” he said. “We hope it will be a gateway for the whole world.” Continue reading

UNA-Westchester: UN Day 2012 – Sustainable Energy for All

Read the following report and view the photos to learn about UNA-Westchester’s 2012 United Nations Day event, “Sustainable Energy for All: Solutions for a Prosperous World.”   Photos     UN Day 2012 Report

Audience members

Naresh Kakar, Elizabeth Silleck, Nikhil Seth

Marcia Brewster, President

Energy Project Team: Visit to ‘The Science Barge’ in Yonkers on 9/15/12

By Brandon Huck, Energy Project Working Group – story and photos

On Saturday, September 15th, members of the Energy Project working group (of the UNA-USA’s Southern NY State Division) visited ‘The Science Barge’ in Yonkers, New York. The Science Barge is a prototype sustainable urban farm floating on the Hudson River and moored at the revitalized Yonkers Waterfront. Developed by New York Sun Works and acquired by Groundwork Hudson Valley in October 2008, the barge is maintained by a small full-time staff and several rotating volunteers (often student interns).  More information at: http://www.groundworkhv.org/programs/science-barge/   To join the UNA-SNY Energy Project, email:  unaenergy@googlegroups.com

Continue reading

Raising Funds for Energy-Related Projects in Haiti

As part of its overall program the Division’s Energy Project is seeking to help raise funds for Energy-Related projects in Haiti.  You can help by taking a minute or two every day from September 19-October 31 to vote online!

What does this mean:  The Public-Private Alliance Foundation, Konbit Pou Ayiti (Konpay),  SocialTap and CDi, all non-profit organizations working in Haiti  are in the run to win $50,000 for their clean fuels & cook stoves projects.  This video describes the issues http://www.unasouthernny.org/advocacy-and-action.html .  
 
How does it work: Between Sep-19 and Oct-31, we ask you to please vote for this project each and every day and to mobilize as many additional votes as possible. The winner of the most votes at the end of the period will receive the $50,000. Runners up will receive $10,000. Based on previous rounds of voting, we estimate to need 20,000 votes to be competitive. That’s about 460 unique votes per day.   Last year CDi won $10,000 for its project for latrines in Haiti.
 
Where to Vote: The website and donor is a socially-minded wine cultivator and retailer:  Cultivate Wines. They call this program “The Give”. The exact web-address is not yet known but it will be found on their website www.cultivatewines.com as of 09/19.    Continue reading

Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS)

by Laura Winninger, UNA-SNY Intern

IRIS and GIIN are two new acronyms to add to our development vocabulary.

In recent years, a growing number of impact investors, who seek to create social good or improve the health of the environment, as well as achieve financial returns, were facing major difficulties  regarding the evaluation of their investments. Because a large number of organizations created their own “metrics”, criteria that indicate their social as well as environmental performance, the comparison between companies was limited.

In order to eliminate these evaluation differences The Rockefeller Foundation, Acumen Fund and B Lab initiated “Impact Reporting and Investment Standards” (IRIS) , which became an initiative of GIIN, the Global Impact Investing Network in 2009. These standards aim at creating a common language for organizations to assess and report on their social, financial and environmental performance as well as to enable comparison to other companies.

The framework of IRIS is based on six points – organization description, product description, financial performance, operational impact, product impact and glossary – which may be reported for the whole company or for a single product. Additionally, a set of sector- based metrics are provided for organizations that impact a particular sector.

Agriculture, environment, energy and water are among these metrics, the increasing importance of sustainability and green energy in businesses is once again approved – good news in the International Year of Sustainable Energy and for all those supporting the UNA-USA’s Energy Project.

 

Scout – a Search Engine for Government Bills and Regulations

Tara Calishain, at ResearchBuzz.com, has written about a new search engine that can be used to identify government and related actions on your selected search topic.  (Thank you, Tara!)  The url is http://scout.sunlightfoundation.com.  The site states that one can use Scout to: 

  • Set up alerts and subscribe to receive updates from Congress, state legislatures and more via email or SMS text.
  • Search through every bill and regulation in the federal government.
  • Be notified when Congress plans to vote on a bill.
  • Follow and search bills in all 50 states; powered by the Open States project.
  • Import an RSS feed to complement issue alerts.

We tried it with the word “energy,” which resulted in current and timely information on bills in congress, speeches in congress, state bills and federal regulations.   Definitely worth a look!

National Regulations on Fracking a Step Closer

Federal regulation aimed at controlling hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, have come a step closer, following an announcement by President Obama that the first national regulations are to be set. The announcement comes after the release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (ERA) draft regulations aimed at controlling pollution. The announcement by the Obama administration follows a series of actions aimed at regulating fracking, which has come under severe criticism from environmental campaigners and the EPA. However, energy producers and the Republican Party, accuse those opposed to fracking of stifling energy production, especially in a climate of rocketing energy prices. Continue reading