Thursday, August 28, 2014

Accountability 'key to achieving Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals'

By Ochieng' Ogodo


[NAIROBI] Accountability framework will be key in achieving the Post-2015 the Sustainable Development Goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), stakeholders say. 

The stakeholders that met at the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa this month (21-23 August) are saying that should be based on a set of core principles, accompanied by bold goals and targets and a plan on the means of implementation.

The stakeholders from the African Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) spectrum, the media, the international CSOs as well as government representatives met to deliberate and propose measures for ensuring an accountability framework for the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

The forum, proposed key elements for an accountability framework, which is expected to feed into the Secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly in September.

Ambassador Marjon Kamara, Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, who chaired the meeting underscored the importance of statistics in determining an accountability framework. She called calling for “concerted action, genuine commitment, and empowerment of African society, including youth, women, faith-based organisations, as well as the business community”.

AU Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Anthony Maruping, stated that Africa was not starting from the scratch when it comes to accountability mechanisms since the continent had experiences with other regional, sub-regional, national accountability frameworks, such as the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)”.

The ECA’s Deputy Executive Secretary, Abdalla Hamdok, stated that the objective of the consultative meeting gave participants’ “wide-encompassing deliberations [needed] to identify key elements to build an accountability architecture for the post-2015 development agenda that is aligned from the global to continental to national levels”.

Eugene Owusu, UN Resident Coordinator, UNDP/Ethiopia advised participants to play a role in “demanding real accountability for one billion people, emphasising participatory mechanisms, in which it is possible for the people to hold their leaders accountable”.

Amina Mohammed, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning told the participants that there was a significant momentum for this new agenda that comes with a high political mandate. She stressed the importance of crafting an accountability framework that is “fit for purpose” for the Africa region.

Participants unanimously agreed that an accountability framework for the Post-2015 and the Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, should be based on a set of core principles, accompanied by bold goals and targets and a plan on the means of implementation. 

They emphasised the need for an accountability framework to be implementable across the broad spectrum of society in a “bottom-up and people centered” approach. The participants also called for country-level commitments to action skilfully led by a multi-stakeholder partnership represented by public, private, civil society and citizen interests.

The forum also talked of the need for a strong culture of reporting, based on accurate and timely data – making a case for evidence-based accountability to provide the basis for measuring progress and also mobilise citizens and civil society to hold institutions and partners accountable towards their commitments.

Ochieng’ Ogodo is a Nairobi-based journalist whose works have been published in various parts of the world including Africa, the US and Europe. He is the English-speaking Africa and Middle East region winner for the 2008 Reuters-IUCN Media Awards for Excellence in Environmental Reporting. He is the chairman of the Kenya Environment and Science Journalists Association. He can be reached at, or

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Consumers want renewable energy, 'governments ignoring them'

By Paul Brown

Consumers worldwide increasingly want renewable energy sources to provide their electricity, yet many governments are ignoring them by continuing to exploit fossil fuels.

LONDON, 26 August, 2014 − Public support for renewable energies across the world continues to grow, particularly in more advanced economies − with solar power being especially popular.

At the same time, the policies of the governments in most of these richer countries do not mirror public opinion as many continue to develop fossil fuels, which do not command such popular support.

An example is the UK, where the government wants to exploit gas reserves by the controversial method of fracking – fracturing rock to allow the gas to reach the ground surface. The Conservative government is also promising to cut down on subsidies for onshore wind farms and to build nuclear power stations.

According to the public attitudes report published this month by the British government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, 36% of the population supports the plan to build new nuclear stations, and only 24% support shale gas extraction by fracking.

Widespread support

In contrast, 79% of the public is in favour of renewable energies to provide electricity. The UK has plentiful renewable energy and is exploiting several different types. Solar panels are the most popular form, with 82% of the public supporting their widespread use on the roofs of private houses and, more recently, solar farms in fields in the countryside.

Other high scores for renewables were offshore wind (72% in favour), onshore wind (67%), wave and tidal (73%), and biomass (60%) − even though all need public subsidy to compete with fossil fuels.

Despite the government’s public support for nuclear, there has been no start on a new station because a subsidy offered by the government is being investigated as potentially illegal under European Union competition legislation. Fracking is still at the exploratory stage and requires years of investment before any power could be produced.

Massive growth

Meanwhile, renewables keep on growing. In the first three months of this year, they produced nearly one-fifth of the UK’s electricity. Renewable energy generation was 43% higher than a year previously, showing the massive growth in the industry.

Both onshore and offshore wind farms are growing quickly, with the UK now having the largest offshore wind industry in the world.

The electricity output from renewables this year was boosted by high rainfall in Scotland, helping the country’s hydropower stations to produce more power, and windy conditions over the whole of the UK improving wind power output.
Field of dreams: a community-owned solar farm near Oxford, UK
Image: Neil Maw/Westmill Solar Co-operative via Wikimedia Commons

The British government’s response to these successes has been a policy to reduce the subsidies for both wind and solar power, as improving technology and mass production lower unit costs, while increasing Treasury support for nuclear power and fracking.

Germany has a similar public support for fossil-free energy – with 69% of consumers agreeing that the subsidies are needed to switch electricity generation to renewables. Unlike in Britain, all nuclear stations in Germany are being closed because of public demand, and fracking is unlikely to be considered.

This is partly because 380,000 Germans already work in the renewable energy sector and its development is credited with helping Germany through the recent recession by creating manufacturing and maintenance jobs.

Attitudes in the US to climate change and renewables have also changed in recent years, despite a barrage of propaganda from the fossil fuel industry attempting to cast doubt on the scientists’ predictions of global warming. The public supports renewable energies, irrespective of their views on global warming.

Actively concerned

The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication reports that 18% of Americans are alarmed by climate change and its effect on their country, and 33% are actively concerned. This is in contrast to 11% who are doubtful that climate change is man-made, and a very vocal 7% who believe it is a hoax or conspiracy got up by scientists and journalists.

Dr Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale project, said “Whatever people’s view on whether climate change was man-made or not, all sectors agreed that there should be support for alternative energies. Subsidies for more fuel efficient and solar had wide public support. This cut across voters of all parties and no party.”

Even in Australia, where the government has repudiated all efforts to combat climate change, 70% of the public support renewable energies.

In the developing world, public knowledge of renewable energies is less, and so is the support − although solar power is popular.

In India, where power cuts are a major headache for businesses, a recent poll showed that 50% of Indians want more renewable energy, and particularly solar power, believing it will help them get a more consistent electricity supply. – Climate News Network