Cancun’s Parallel World: Solar Boat, Business, Mayors, Youth

CANCUN, Mexico, December 3, 2010 (ENS) – Somewhere in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, the world’s largest solar-powered boat, Turanor PlanetSolar, is slicing through the waves on its way to Cancun to visit the UN climate negotiations as part of its circumnavigation of the globe.

Sailing under the Swiss flag, the 102-foot-long, 50-foot-wide catamaran left Miami November 30 and is scheduled to arrive in Cancun on December 6.

The world’s largest solar boat leaves Miami for Cancun. November 30, 2010 (Photo courtesy PlanetSolar)

“We are going to Cancun to show our support for the UN, its member states and all the delegates who are working together to find sustainable solutions for future generations,” says Swiss engineer Raphael Domjan, founder of the PlanetSolar project. “We want to show that we can change, that we have the technology, the knowledge and the means. It is possible for each one of us to make a difference; and it depends on both our individual and collective responsibility.”

The surface of the Turanor PlanetSolar, measuring more than 5,700 square feet, is designed to act as a solar generator. This ensures that the catamaran can keep going for long periods (up to three full days), even without direct insolation. The solar energy yielded by the generator is stored in a lithium-ion battery (this technology offers the maximum output and energy density).

Solar energy is collected on the catamaran by photovoltaic panels made by Solon AG of Berlin, The panels use high-efficiency solar cells from the California-based SunPower Corporation that achieve conversion rates of up to 23 percent, twice as efficient as conventional solar and up to four times more efficient than thin-film solar.

“We believe that our goal – a better future for our planet through the promotion of solar energy, eco-mobility and energy efficiency – has a strong tie with what the conference is all about,” Domjan said. “We hope everyone involved will come to visit our boat.” The US$17.5 million Turanor PlanetSolar will be docked at La Amada Marina just north of Cancun.

While government officials from 194 countries hammer out the complex components of a climate treaty to govern human responses to global warming after the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period expires at the end of 2013, civil society groups are creating their own climate events in Cancun.

Natural Refrigerants to Replace HFCs

Consumer Goods Forum, a consortium of over 400 companies, announced Monday that its members will implement climate-friendly refrigeration using natural refrigerants beginning in 2015.

The multi-company team charged with delivering the pledge is co-chaired by Unilever and Tesco and includes Coca-Cola, Carrefour, Ahold, Nestle, Pepsico, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, General Mills, L’Oreal and Walmart among others.

The natural refrigerants will replace hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, now being used by many companies for refrigeration. While HFCs do not destroy the ozone layer, they are greenhouse gases that are far more potent than carbon dioxide, CO2.

Natural refrigeration solutions that exist today use hydrocarbons, ammonia and carbon dioxide. In 1992, Greenpeace developed GreenFreeze, the first hydrocarbon refrigerator as a solution to avoid HFCs – 400 million have sold globally.

The natural refrigerant initiative follows Greenpeace’s participation at the Consumer Goods Forum Sustainable Refrigeration Summit meeting last month, where Greenpeace Solutions Director Amy Larkin challenged the companies to come together and commit to a solution on refrigeration by 2015.

“This is an extremely important first step, and will pave the way for major changes across the industry. We expect each of these companies to set forth a timeline by 2015 for complete phase out of HFCs,” said Larkin. “Now national and international policy makers must match these corporations’ targets by outlawing HFCs and making the transition to climate-friendly alternatives both cheap and easy.”

Cities Register Emissions, Build Climate Action Plans

The carbonn Cities Climate Registry, or cCCR, launched November 21 at the World Mayors Summit on Climate hosted by Mexico City’s Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, allows cities around the world to report their local climate action to a central platform, run by local governments for local governments.

Dismal air quality in Mexico City, viewed from Torre Latinoamericana, at one point the tallest building in Mexico. (Photo by Carlos Hernandez)

The cCCR is the official reporting mechanism of the Global Cities Covenant on Climate, also called the Mexico City Pact, signed by 138 cities at the World Mayors Summit. Among them are: Barcelona, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Kyoto, Los Angeles, Nagoya, Nantes, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo.

Five cities from five continents have already registered their data with the cCCR prior to its official launch and the signing of the Pact: Calgary, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Nagpur and Mexico City.

The cCCR will be operated by the “Bonn Center for Local Climate Action and Reporting – carbonn,” which was launched by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and the UN Environment Programme at Copenhagen climate talks in December 2009.

ICLEI is an association of over 1,200 local government members committed to sustainable development. Members come from 70 different countries and represent nearly 570 million people.

User registration, climate data reporting and searchable information about cities and their climate commitments will all be available through the carbonn website.

Martin Chavez, ICLEI USA executive director, said, “Through the success of well-developed, well-implemented climate action plans, local governments continue to demonstrate their profound commitment to addressing climate change on a local level and they are looking to the international community to show a similar level of commitment during these climate negotiations in Cancun.”

Business Leaders Gather at Parallel World Climate Summit

The World Climate Summit is the business and finance conference accelerating solutions to climate change to be held in Cancun on December 4-5 parallel to the UN’s formal negotiations.

Virgin Galactic founder and owner Sir Richard Branson and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson at the dedication ceremony of Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. October 22, 2010. (Photo by Fort Bliss Garrison PAO)

Under the leadership of The UNEP Finance Initiative organizers are convening “the largest coalition of financiers tackling climate change ever assembled – representing more than $20 trillions of assets under management.”

Business, investment and government figures will collaborate, implement and develop “bottom-up solutions” to climate change to help reach regional and global 2020 targets.

Participants include Sir Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group; Ted Turner, Chairman, UN Foundation; Lord Nicholas Stern, Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, LSE & Special Adviser to HSBC; Emilio Azcarraga, president and CEO of Grupo Televisa, and more than 100 high-level speakers confirmed from more than 20 industries.

World Climate Summit will launch the Carbon War Room Gigaton Awards, celebrating cities, companies and leaders that are tackling climate change with sustainable business actions.

Aimee Christensen, World Climate Summit program chair, said, “The global climate challenge provides an urgent imperative to build a global clean economy that can deliver greater prosperity, health, and security, and be the engine of our economic recovery.

“At the World Climate Summit,” said Christensen, “participants will get down to the practical work of making this more sound future a reality.”

On Monday, Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon gave the opening address at a side event, Business Action for Climate 2010, organized by the World Climate Summit. A press conference and panel discussion presented the business case for combating climate change, the role of business leadership, and the importance of governmental action.

In summary, participants said that global prosperity, health, security, and safety depend upon a sustainable energy future. The building of the global clean economy can be the engine of economic recovery by reducing energy expenditures through energy efficiency, by retooling manufacturing facilities to produce clean energy technologies, and by launching new industries.

Global Aviation Industry Tackles Its Climate Impact

In October, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations body charged with setting standards and recommended practices for international aviation, adopted a global framework for addressing emissions from aviation fuels.

Approved by 190 governments, the framework includes emissions targets, measures, rules of engagement on market-based measures, means to consider special needs of developing countries and acknowledgment of government and industry roles. While some aspects were tagged for further work, the framework is solid.

At an aviation industry side event in Cancun Tuesday hosted by the International Air Transport Association, policy specialists explored what that will mean in the sky and on the ground.

On December 6, at another aviation industry event, to be hosted by Paul Steele, executive director of the Air Transport Action Group, aviation specialists will present case studies from across the industry illustrating innovative projects now underway or under development aimed at reducing aviation CO2 emissions.

The Air Transport Action Group has launched a new website that uses aims to demonstrate that aviation is serious about the environment and is taking practical measures to limit emissions.

The website is a global cross-industry iniative. Supporters include airlines, airports, air navigation services providers, manufacturers among others.

Nancy Young, vice president for environmental affairs of the Air Transport Association of America, who is with the aviation team in Cancun, said today, “Perhaps the tremendous progress we have made in international aviation can suggest a way forward.”

Women in REDD

A new gender initiative introduced in Cancun aims to ensure that women are an integral part of negotiations on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degredation, which everyone calls REDD. This international process is targeted at reduction of climate change impacts due to the logging and mismanagement of forests.

The Global Initiative on REDD+ and Gender Equality was jointly launched Monday by the International Union of Conservation of Nature, IUCN, Women’s Economic Development Outreach, WEDO, and Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management, WOMEN.

Delegates attending the launch event, hosted by the Government of Norway and entitled “The missing link to success: Women in REDD” wore red to show their solidarity for the Women in REDD campaign. Jeannette Gurung, director of Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture, WOCAN, moderated the dialogue.

Women in REDD side event at Cancun, from left: Jeannette Gurung, WOCAN; Manohara Khadka, HIMWANTI; Carole Saint-Laurent and Lorena Aguilar, IUCN. (Photo courtesy WOCAN)

Pilot REDD projects in 40 developing countries are already underway, and as a result of last year’s climate change talks in Copenhagen, the international community started working towards a global REDD deal. But women again are the missing link despite their critical role in climate action, the groups stressed.

“Political will for REDD exists, but donors sponsoring REDD initiatives still do not mainstream gender in projects on the ground even though they have mandate – and hence obligation – to do so,” said Lorena Aguilar, global senior advisor on gender for IUCN.

Current REDD+ initiatives state the need to engage indigenous peoples and local communities, but do not recognize the differentiated needs of women and men within communities, the groups explained.

“A typical village in the countries we work with is composed of men with rights to land and women who have ‘courtesy’ land and forest access through their husbands, but no rights,” said Consuelo Espinosa, IUCN’s senior forests and climate change officer.”

Because women do not necessarily own forest lands, they are often excluded from discussions about how forest should be managed at community level. What worries us is that there is a risk that women would also be excluded from REDD payment schemes for the same reason, ” she said.

The IUCN’s Carole Saint-Laurent said that immediate and long-term benefits can be achieved by involving women in strategy, decision making, the distribution of benefits, and capacity building.

Manohara Khadka of the Himalayan Grassroots Women’s Natural Resource Management Association, or HIMWANTI, said that in Nepal there is work to do to elevate women from their traditional roles as users and managers forest resources to making policy decisions.

Vicky Tauli-Corpuz of the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network highlighted the important role of indigenous women in forest management and said that traditional knowledge of indigenous people must be protected and integrated into REDD+ policymaking.

In the Pacific, women often have the right to utilize breadfruit even though the tree itself is the province of men, who use it as a source of wood for furniture and canoes. In Nigeria, women may have rights to the kernel but not to the oil of the palm which is often sold as a cash crop.

“We know that community leaders often neglect women’s issues, and that women leaders are either not offered a seat at the decision-making table or are ill-prepared to participate effectively if given the opportunity,” said Aguilar. “So if REDD+ is to impact positively on the forest-dependent poor, governments should make sure that women, whose livelihoods depend mostly on forest resources, get an equal share of benefits from REDD.”

China-US Youth Climate Exchange

Young people in Cancun are trancending the traditional rivalries among governments to create collaborations that will lead to climate solutions.

The China-US Youth Climate Exchange, a project spearheaded by about 30 college-age climate activists from seven Chinese and U.S.-based organizations, met for the first time Sunday in Cancun.

Young people from China and the United States meet for the first time in Cancun. November 29, 2010 (Photo courtesy China-US Youth Climate Exchange)

They, like a multitude of other climate activists the world over, are using the Internet to shape a global movement. The young activists have spent the last six weeks coordinating their effort from opposite sides of the Pacific, designing a plan for their work in Cancun without ever having met face to face.

They are conducting a series of workshops on cross-cultural collaboration and organizing strategies. They plan a shared action designed to focus the attention that urges U.S. and Chinese negotiators to agree on a strong climate treaty, and a bi-lingual blog that tracks the progress of the exchange.

Each activity is focused on enhancing international collaboration between youth organizers, and finding ways for the world’s two biggest carbon emitters to work together constructively on climate change. The youth say the U.S. and China should stop blaming one another and begin working together to solve climate problems.

“In the midst of the greatest challenge facing our generation,” said Jared Schy, part of the U.S. youth delegation and member of the Northwest-based Cascade Climate Network, “we believe it is our responsibility as future leaders to establish this dialogue now.”

Wang Yiting, a member of the Chinese delegation to the UN climate talks in Copenhagen last year, said the youths are demonstrating “an innovative model of cooperation on climate change” to the two governments.

Wang, who majors in environmental science and international relations at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, said, “We hope to induce more cooperation among our governments and more aggressive action in creating and taking leadership on climate and energy solutions.”

And Much, Much More…

There are 250 side events and some 200 exhibits that have been scheduled by governments, UN agencies and admitted observer organizations during the Cancun negotiations.

To see a full schedule of side events and exhibits visit: http://regserver.unfccc.int/seors/reports/events_list.html?session_id=COP16/CMP6

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