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FPA 2017: Celebrating the world’s best policies to combat desertification

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In this brochure, we present the winning policies of our Future Policy Award 2017. In partnership with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), this year’s award celebrates laws and policies that successfully tackle land degradation, and contribute to the protection of life and livelihoods in the drylands.

Policies score highly in the Future Policy Award evaluation not only by advancing the sustainable use of resources but also by addressing equity, the eradication of poverty, community participation, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

We seek to inspire lawmakers worldwide with these exemplary, award-winning policies, and hope to see their key elements being spread and implemented in the months and years ahead.

COP13: Costa Rica and the Benefits of Prosperity Sharing

Today, the thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP13) kicks off in Cancun, Mexico. Delegates from around the world are expected to add shape and definition to their country’s long term commitments to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Back in 1998, Costa Rica introduced a Biodiversity Law which protects not only the variety of animal and plant life in the country but also the genetic and biochemical resources derived from them. In 2010, the country won the Future Policy Award 2010 for their successful approach.

Raising awareness of biodiversity loss, which is threatening wildlife, the environment and our common future, has been at the core of the work of the World Future Council for many years. In the face of the looming biodiversity crisis, policy-makers must work urgently towards ambitious and comprehensive policies – and good solutions already exist. In the run up to the conference we interviewed a number of policy influencers in Costa Rica, a country well known for its success in combining the use of its biodiversity with economic growth.

Back in 1998, Costa Rica introduced a Biodiversity Law which protects not only the variety of animal and plant life in the country but also the genetic and biochemical resources derived from them. In 2010, the country won the Future Policy Award 2010 for their successful approach.

Patricia Madrigal Cordero, Vice-Minister of the Environment, said that the law also shields the intellectual property rights associated with traditional knowledge and practices of indigenous people from commercial exploitation by outside actors.

How, then, has Costa Rica been so successful in protecting its biodiversity whilst maintaining steady economic development and being named the world’s happiest country in a report published by the New Economics Foundation? Silvia Rodriguez-Cervantes from the Ecological Federation of Costa Rica, an NGO, points out that the Biodiversity Law established a new authority to manage the country’s biodiversity resources by combining government ministries with civil society groups. This demonstrates a successful power-sharing agreement between different levels of governance to ensure that no one group has total control over the genetic and biochemical resources of the country.

Policy-makers stand to learn a lot from the Costa Rican model, which incorporates a policy mix of governance-sharing, wealth distribution and protection for minority communities. Three key ingredients for a happy and healthy society.

Secondly, the objectives of the law have been socially inclusive from the outset. With Article 1 of the Law aiming to conserve biodiversity as well as to; “…distribute in an equitable manner the benefits and derived costs”.

With inequalities of wealth increasing across the globe, policy-makers would do well to see the Costa Rican Biodiversity Law not only as a piece of effective environmental legislation, but also as a policy that attempts to share the benefits of increased prosperity more evenly across society. To read in more detail how Costa Rica has achieved these goals visit our Policy Database.

Policy-makers stand to learn a lot from the Costa Rican model, which incorporates a policy mix of governance-sharing, wealth distribution and protection for minority communities. Three key ingredients for a happy and healthy society.

On that note we wish all delegates and participants at the COP13 in Mexico a fruitful and productive conference.

Policy Solutions for Sustainable Charcoal in Sub-Saharan Africa

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An estimated 90 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population depend on firewood and charcoal for cooking. Greening the charcoal value chain can potentially allow nations to meet their energy commitments for cooking and heating in a sustainable manner while smoothing the way for a gradual transition to ‘modern’ cooking technology. We must begin to talk about charcoal, not as a fuel on its way out, but rather as a fuel with the potential to transform lives today while protecting our forests.

Blue Solutions from Asia and the Pacific

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This publication features success stories that were presented at the regional forum in Cebu in May 2014, where over 100 practitioners and policy-makers from 17 countries in the Asia-Pacific region gathered to exchange experiences and share knowledge in marine and coastal management and governance.

MPs from six East African countries sign declaration to save forests

Inter-Parliamentary Hearing in Nairobi comes to successful close

Nairobi, 6 October 2014: Several members of National Parliaments and Senators from Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe declared their commitment to take leadership in saving forests and restoring land at the 3rd Inter-Parliamentary Hearing on ‘Forests for People’ which took place in Nairobi, Kenya, last week.

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Sustainable Biochar

In addition to measures for enriching farmland and pastures with ‘conventional’ organic matter, a potentially important additional option is available in the form of ‘Biochar’. Biochar can be produced by pyrolysis (low-oxygen combustion) of organic materials – forest thinnings, sawdust, agricultural wastes, urban organic wastes or sewage solids – and the resulting charcoal-like substance can be incorporated into farmland as a long term carbon storage option. These are ways of producing ‘sustainable biochar’ as opposed to its production from monoculture tree plantations, which is rightly vigorously opposed by an international coalition of environmental groups.

Use of charcoal as a soil conditioner has ancient origins, and is best documented  with reference to the ‘terra preta’ soils found in parts of the Amazon. Much evidence now exists that charcoal was mixed by Amazonian Indian cultivators with food- and human wastes to enrich poor and acidic soils. The predecessors of today’s Amazonian Indians left behind ‘terra preta’ soils rich in organic matter in some 10 per cent of the Amazon territory. Research has shown that charcoal incorporated in this way can last in the soil for hundreds to even thousands of years.

Biochar is a more stable nutrient source than compost and manure. The porous quality of the biochar particles can improve soil structure, and harbours a vast variety and quantity of micro-organisms and associated plant nutrients,  enhancing fertility and life in the soil, and also helping it to retain moisture – which is very important in an age of climate change.

By ‘pyrolysing’ one tonne of organic material which contains half a tonne of carbon, about half a tonne of CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere and stored in the soil whilst the other half can be used as a carbon-neutral fuel (this equals a quarter of the CO2 absorbed by the plant during its growth). Biochar has the potential to lock the mineral carbon it contains safely away in the soil for centuries. Professor Johannes Lehmann of Cornell University and others have calculated that biochar applications to soil could remove several billion tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere per year.

Bio-char can be produced from many different organic materials, including sewage and urban biomass. At the sewage works in Bingen, Germany, semi-dried sewage sludge is pyrolysed and turned into black granules: the sewage is turned into charcoal. This can then be buried in farm soil and the carbon it contains can thus be prevented from entering the atmosphere. There is no doubt that the billions of tonnes of sewage and green wastes that accumulate in cities every year, if turned into biochar and buried, could greatly benefit the world’s soils soil as well as the atmosphere.

Incorporation of sustainably produced bio-char could be used to reward farmers as carbon stewards, enabling them to enhance their yields whilst also increasing our ability to deal with climate change.

International “Forests for People” Hearing Kicks off in Nairobi

Members of Parliament from African Countries discuss Visionary Forest Policies

Nairobi/Hamburg, 30 September 2014: An Inter-Parliamentary Hearing on exemplary African forest policies was officially opened with a ceremony at the KICC in Nairobi today. Honourable Ekwee Ethuro declared the hearing officially opened and highlighted the importance of forests to the country.

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2nd World Summit of Legislators

 

Mexico City: At the 2nd World Summit of Legislators, the WFC, GLOBE and CISDL presented the Biodiversity Legislation Study that analyses and compares comprehensive biodiversity laws from eight countries. Over 300 high-level representatives and national legislators from all over the world attended the summit hosted by the Mexican Congress.

Carbon labelling policies

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Carbon Labelling is supported in the framework of the Intelligent Energy Europe programme

It has been shown that the carbon footprint of food products (‘foodprint’) can vary substantially. Depending on its production method (organic versus chemical), its content (meat versus vegetarian or vegan), transport routes (air freight, sea freight or local), processing method (fresh versus deep-frozen) and disposal of residues (use as organic fertilizer versus waste), each food item is responsible for a certain amount of GHG emissions during its life-cycle.

Making this information available to the consumer increases transparency in the food market, raises awareness of the consumer, creates incentives for the industry to lower its carbon footprint, and rewards climate friendly products. Consumers should know whether the organic kiwi from New Zealand or the home grown chemically fertilized apple does more harm to the climate. In general, environmental labelling has been a success story since the 1980s. Labels, such as the Energy Star, energy efficiency ratings or the Nordic Swan label have changed the behaviour of consumers and manufacturers. An Eurobarometer survey showed that for an overwhelming majority of Europeans (83 percent) the impact of a product on the environment plays an important aspect in their purchasing decisions.

An evaluation of the specific circumstances of the political and regulatory environment will determine the best choice in each case. Whereas a mandatory label ensures a broad participation, voluntary schemes might have a better acceptance in the industry. A food label should be based on total lifecycle emissions, as opposed to considering only the use-phase. Possible are both, comparative labels which provide consumers with product information through use of a specific number (e. g. ‘1 kg CO2’) or rating (e. g. A–F or 1–5 stars), or endorsement labels which prove that the product meets certain criteria (e. g. below average carbon footprint).

Implementing new labelling schemes necessitates conformity assessment procedures involving testing, inspection, certification, accreditation and metrology. These processes are essential for the effective implementation and acceptance of the scheme.

The EU Commission has taken a first look at this issue but, not surprisingly, has received opposition from the food industry. However, the example of the UK Carbon Label and the Swedish climate labelling initiative show that the concept can be implemented and, with the assistance of governments and industry, can be established on a larger scale.

Case study: Sweden’s Klimatmärkning

In Sweden, the two major certification bodies, KRAV and Swedish Seal, have developed a climate label for food. As the project has been joined by several major food and agriculture companies, the Swedish climate labelling initiative has become the first comprehensive and country wide policy of its kind in Europe.

The climate label covers the food chain from farming to the sale of the produce. So far, criteria for meat, fish, milk, greenhouse vegetables and agricultural crops have been set. Food produced and distributed with at least 25 percent less GHG than comparable products can be labelled with a respective note. In this way the label focuses on the climate friendliest products within a group, but does not help the consumer to choose between meat and beans.

The climate label is accompanied by an information and education campaign, which resulted in recommendations for climate compatible nourishment. In addition, the initiative works with the industry to implement measures to reduce the GHG emissions of food production.

According to press reports (Spiegel-online of 7th Nov. 2009) the climate label increased the sale of Max burgers by 20 percent. Experts are cited to expect a 50 percent reduction of GHG emissions in the Swedish food industry, if the population would switch to climate friendly alimentation. The labelling initiative maintains that 60 percent of consumers would like to see a climate label on products.

Anna Richert, climate expert of the label initiative, says: “The strength of the label is that reductions in climate impact have been made wherever possible. The producer participates in making the food chain more sustainable.”

Click here to access Klimatmärkning homepage.

Regional Forum on Oceans and Coasts

 

Cebu: Decision makers and practitioners from 17 countries in Asia and the Pacific convened in Cebu City in the Philippines to exchange experiences and solutions in marine and coastal management as well as governance. To shine a light on good solutions that already exist, we showcased the winning policies of the Future Policy Award 2012 on Oceans and Coasts – three of which stem from the region. We are happy to have wonBlue Solutions and the Lighthouse Foundation as partners for this event. Read our press release here.