Archive for the 'South Asia' Category

From Pillars to Platform: Demystifying the Durban Outcome

“If we accept this text, we are killing ourselves.” These were the words of an ambassador from a small island nation in the final hours of the longest UN climate negotiations in history. “We may be small, but we are not dead,” he continued. With these strong statements, the ambassador sought to rally other countries like his to push back against the weak agreement the conference had produced.

Continue reading more on the Fletcher Forum.

From Bangkok to Power Shift

Cross-posted from

It’s the final day of the UN Climate Talks in Bangkok and the buzz here isn’t about the progress being made on a global treaty (not much), but about Power Shift.

Well, ok, to be honest, most delegates probably don’t know about the conference coming up in DC next weekend, but if all goes well, they will soon. After all, when it comes to saving the planet, the discussions and work that goes on in DC at Power Shift will be just as essential as the debates raging here at the UN.

Amongst civil society representatives, however, there is a building level of excitement about Power Shift and the growing climate movement.

Over the past three years, we have seen the explosion of the global climate movement. At Power Shift 2009, the organization I work with,, was little more than a small group of former students from Middlebury College and writer Bill McKibben. We spent the conference signing up students to take part in a global day of action on October 24 and Bill took the stage with a dancing 3, 5, and 0 to spread the most important number on earth: 350, as in 350 ppm, the safe level of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere that we’re already past.

Fast forward to October 24, when there were over 5,200 events in 182 countries calling for action to get to 350 ppm. CNN called it, “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” Since then, our movement has only grown. Last October, the Global Work Party brought together over 7,000 community events. now counts more than 500,000 supporters in 188 countries as part of our movement and its growing by the day. (Just yesterday, we merged with 1Sky in the US to build our movement even larger).

Power Shift will mark another turning point. Continue reading ‘From Bangkok to Power Shift’

Changing Tides – A Photo Essay on Bangladesh


©Stuart Matthews

Guest post and photography essay from photographer Stuart Matthews

In November, 2009, I visited Bangladesh to document the impact of global warming on the country and its’ people. I focused on how NGO’s such as Oxfam Great Britain are collaborating with the communities to develop initiatives like the ‘Cash for Work’ program. This provides an income to the individual workers who participate in developing the climate defenses around their community.

Bangladesh has an extremely vulnerable landscape with 80% of its land made up of low-lying deltaic plains with an altitude of only 10 meters above sea level or less. This land is subject to frequent flooding during the Monsoon season, with large quantities of water flowing down the Jamuna and Padma rivers, causing catastrophic erosion along the banks of a fragile, predominantly silt, landscape.

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Continue reading ‘Changing Tides – A Photo Essay on Bangladesh’

Are the Himalayan Glaciers melting? Why not see for yourself?

These mountains in the depths of district of Chamba in the state of Himachal Pradesh (India) used to have a lot more snow.

In recent times I’ve been reading a lot about climate change not being real. First the climate gate scandal followed by the many articles attacking the IPCC for incorrectly publishing information on the glaciers melting in the Himalayas by 2035. Climate scientists, economics, politicians and business persons are being interviewed left, right and centre.

The question on the lips of the public is – what is the truth? The truth is such an interesting thing – where more often than not, it is a human tendency for a person to believe what they want to hear.

I pose a question to all people who are jumping on the bandwagon of denying the Himalayan glacier melt due to an error made by the IPCC, and denying the existence of climate change. How many of you have been to the Himalayas? How many of you have spoken to the citizens in the mountains of India and Nepal who have spent their whole lives there?

Very few of you – if any. Continue reading ‘Are the Himalayan Glaciers melting? Why not see for yourself?’

A Video about Survival: Rising Tide

I am proud to announce the arrival of the mini-documentary, Rising Tides: Sunderbands, India. This documentary is the work of the India, Asia team of Project Survival Media. I asked team leader Ekta Kothari to tell me about her experience making the film, and she did!

“The story was incredibly powerful to film. I could never put the experience into words, but let me try to paint you a picture:

The Sunderbans is a place with many riches – An archipelago of mangrove ecosystems, and home to the Royal Bengal Tigers, boasting a biodiversity extremely rich in flora and fauna – right next door to my city, Kolkata.

And yet, the first time I visited these islands, all I could find was devastation. Continue reading ‘A Video about Survival: Rising Tide’

COP15 WEEK 1 RECAP: Survival is On the Table

Last night the Avaaz team had dinner together at a local restaurant. We went around the table and shot out highlights from week one of COP15. My highlight was Tuesday afternoon. Tuvalu, a tiny island nation already being forced to plan for the displacement of its population, had just changed the course of the negotiations. Tuvalu, supported by over 100 countries was standing up for a legally-binding and enforceable agreement as opposed to a political one. Less than an hour after hearing the news of Tuvalu’s brave actions, organizations and youth mobilized to make signs and rally inside the Bella Center to say “Tuvalu is the Real Deal” and “Stand with Tuvalu”. By Friday the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) had submitted a formal proposal that finally put a real climate deal on the table in Copenhagen.

Before I offer a few things you should know about week 1, I want to offer two priorities for the final week:

1. Raise Expectations by Supporting Real Leaders
The final week is all about holding heads of state accountable for a writing a real deal. To raise expectations, we must generate a groundswell of citizen support for the demands of small island states, Africa, and other vulnerable nations inside of COP15. These brave leaders are calling for exactly what we want – a fair, ambitious, and binding treaty that gets us to 350 ppm and limits warming to 1.5 degrees C. We need to remind our leaders that our fates are bound together. By ensuring survival for the world’s most vulnerable we can avoid climate tipping points that would put all of our futures in jeopardy.

2. Stop a Greenwash
We need to draw a bright line between a real deal and a greenwash. Coalitions of nations have formed to create loopholes in everything from how we account for forest emissions reductions to whether we will create additional funds for adaptation and technology transfer or steal money from existing aid budgets. Despite a new administration, the United States remains the central figure keeping global ambitions low at COP15. When countries try to water down a deal, we need to be ready to respond both in Copenhagen and back home on a dime. If the deal is riddled with loopholes, sets emission targets too low, does not include strong long-term financing for developing countries, or is not legally-binding, it simply will not work. With 110+ heads of state putting their credibility on the line in Copenhagen, the risks for an empty political deal rather than a real deal could not be higher.

With those priorities in mind, here’s what you should know about what happened in week 1:

Continue reading ‘COP15 WEEK 1 RECAP: Survival is On the Table’

Tomorrow is Today

Martin Luther King said, more than 40 years ago, “We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”

I have had, in the past week, three moments in which it struck me — Tomorrow IS today. Everything we imagined for the future is happening right now.

1. Nations are Disappearing. Entire Nations. Now. I heard the President of  Kiribati say to the Minister of State of the Maldives that Australia was finally willing to take his refugees; that they had agreed to train his citizens so they could move as recruited migrants and not as refugees. He said, “When my nation is uninhabitable, my citizens will be working sustainably all over the world.” The Minister of the Maldives said he would never see his nation underwater and uninhabitable, that he would never leave. Continue reading ‘Tomorrow is Today’

Why New Coal?

Perplexed by the inter-related problems India faces as it develops at the cost of 2/3 rd of its population living outside the economy, two young activists from Switch ON, rode their cycles 1800 kilometers across India through the coal belt – to question India’s growth based on fossil fuel, and to seek and highlight alternatives for a sustainable and equitable development.

Why New Coal gives a new perspective to Coal in India – addressing India’s growing energy needs, problems of energy security and Climate Change Vulnerabilities – by interviewing experts across the nation, while also documenting Vinay and Hoob’s epic journey across the nation.

Continue reading ‘Why New Coal?’

REspect REcycle

Last week, a few members of IYCN headed down to Dharavi, India’s largest slum and the true heart of Indian recycling to participate in RESPECT RECYCLE, an incredible event organized by our friend and road tour colleague Jitin Abraham, 21 Tigers, IYCN, and Acorn Foundation. We had a chance to visit some of the recycling facilities in Dharavi, places where women were sorting through tiny pieces of electronics to sort out metal, places where all of the cardboard of the city flowed in and out, sorted by shape and size, pieces of old plastic phones sorted and melted. It was beautiful, toxic, unbelievable and heart-breaking all at once.
Apache Indian, Amar, Jim Beanz, and Rebel Music as they entered Dharavi
The event of REspect REcycle was to draw attention to the work of Bombay’s ragpickers and pay homage and respect to the work they do daily to protect our planet, our health, and our cities. Methane emissions from landfills are a serious component of India’s greenhouse gases, and improving recycling units are a bit part of the solution. Several artists of Timbaland Productions headed into Dharavi to show RESPECT to Bombay’s rag pickers and the entire recycling industry that is based out of Dharavi, by celebrating music, graffiti art and sculpture at a gym in Dharavi. Continue reading ‘REspect REcycle’

Covering the UN climate talks, in Bonn: AOSIS rocks it on mitigation targets

For the next two weeks, there will be daily blogs on from the Bonn meetings of the UN.

For more Bonn coverage on IGHIH, click these links :

1. The pre-sessionals (Friday 27th)

2. AOSIS rocks it on mitigation targets (Saturday 28th)

Yesterday evening’s pre-sessional, ‘Workshop on issues relating to the scale of emission reductions to be achieved by Annex I Parties’ saw about 10 presentations from different nations, followed by some scientific/technical/economic presentations, all discussing mitigation potentials are necessary, possible according to the research, and ‘at what cost’.

Japan, Australia, the EU, New Zealand, China, South Africa and Iceland all made presentations, but the final presentation, from AOSIS – the Alliance Of Small Island States, the most climate-vulnerable nations in the world – really kicked serious butt.

Continue reading ‘Covering the UN climate talks, in Bonn: AOSIS rocks it on mitigation targets’

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