Entrepreneurs Drive Sustainable Solutions, Empower Communities
With both China and the U.S. taking crucial steps to limit emissions and develop alternatives to fossil-fueled industries, the hunt for new technologies and solutions has intensified. And it is about time. One of the most serious findings in a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), recently launched in Copenhagen, is that drastic changes in our climate can now be measured on every continent of our planet. It is hugely affecting our raw materials and therefore it is affecting us all—our health, food, water oceans and also businesses’ license to operate. We are now at a point where climate change is not a phenomenon that may hit us one day—it has begun hitting us all.
Azuri Technologies has developed solar power products in Africa that make clean energy affordable for low-income communities. Photo credit: Azuri Technologies
Another crucial finding in the report is that there is a 95 percent probability that climate change is caused by humans. Chair of IPCC Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri put it this way when I spent some time with him last week in Bergen, Norway: this is as close to a 100 percent probability as 600 scientists from 154 countries will ever get.
As Einstein stressed you do not solve problems with the same thinking that created them. New thinking is needed. We need a wide range of solutions addressing the equally wide range of challenges we are facing. We need new ways of lowering emissions, reusing natural resources, bypassing fossil fuels with renewables, and protecting our crops from draught and our communities from flooding.
Though deployment of new solutions is needed quickly, we cannot rush to actions that do not have widespread effects. Climate change ignores borders, and it ignores your income level. Therefore, our solutions must do the same. For too long, the assumption has been that poor people have no purchasing power, and therefore, do not represent a viable market. But as sustainable development has taken a greater interest in developing countries and their growth opportunities, innovative forces are now taking a closer look at how to apply solutions to all segments of the market and still find a business model at the "bottom of the pyramid."
At Sustainia, we have researched thousands of innovative projects over the last three years to find the leading sustainability solutions around the globe. We found that several of them were designed by entrepreneurs in developing countries—creating new markets at the "bottom of the pyramid."
We are seeing several examples of solutions that have managed to deploy sustainability projects to low-income areas in developing countries with a profitable business model. This serves as an important inspiration that sustainable development doesn’t end with the innovation; it must also include widespread deployment.
Pedal-powered recycling in Nigeria
In Lagos, Nigeria, the initiative Wecyclers is fueling social and environmental change by enabling people in low-income communities to make money off of the unmanaged waste piling up in their streets. This is first and foremost a response to the local waste crisis, where overburdened municipal governments collect only 40 percent of city garbage and recycle only 13 percent of that.
The Wecyclers initiative has deployed a fleet of cargo bicycles to pick-up, collect and recycle garbage in low-income neighborhoods. Families are encouraged to recycle their bottles, cans and plastics through an SMS-based program. For every kilogram of material recycled, the family receives Wecyclers points on their cell phone. Families can then redeem points for goods, such as cell phone minutes, basic food items or household goods. The SMS-based program also sends collection reminders and instant updates on points, giving instant rewards for participation. Finally, the initiative adds to the local economy by hiring personnel locally to collect garbage. What I really like about this solution is that it engages the local community in tackling a huge health and environmental problem while making money.
Pay-as-you-go for Clean Energy
British company Azuri Technologies has developed and manufactured solar power products for off-grid areas in emerging markets in Africa that make clean energy affordable for low-income communities. With a pay-as-you-go business model, the company has removed high up-front costs and instead designed a pay-off process, where residents buy scratch cards to activate the solar panels. The scratch cards are cheaper than kerosene alternatives to light, but still pay off the solar panels over the course of a year or so. Azuri has distribution networks in markets, such as Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Zambia and South Africa.
Every day, thousands of rural, small business owners across Africa are forced to close due to a lack of electricity or choose to remain open by using harmful kerosene lamps or expensive, solar-powered batteries. Same thing goes for private households. Azuri is not only enhancing safety and visibility after dark: the innovations also provide infrastructure to rural business owners who can stay open longer to benefit the community and boost sales.
Nurturing fertile crops in developing countries
Israeli-based company Netafim is behind a low-tech drip solution for small-scale farmers in primarily developing countries. The innovation increases yields while saving on water and costs. The irrigation system drips precise quantities of water and nutrients right at the root zone of crops. An elevated tank distributes the water using only gravity. The big win for farmers is that this simple and effective system minimizes the need for electricity and investments in infrastructure. The UN estimates that 500 million small-scale farmers provide over 80 percent of the food consumed in the developing world. With droughts increasing, irrigation systems are vital to sustain agriculture because they addresses water scarcity and soil erosion. The solution is commercially viable with a payback time of about a year, making it fit for microfinance projects. Today, Netafim is used in 11 countries including Mexico, Kenya and China.
Innovations such as these do not stand alone. Right now, an inspiring development is taking place, where private initiatives are finding new ways to grow business models that can empower communities with the benefits of sustainability. Through visionary innovations such as these, low-income communities can also enjoy the positive health effects of waste management, smarter use of resources and the countless benefits of clean energy.
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By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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