Category: Development

Schools for girls can help to answer climate crisis

Schools for girls can help to answer climate crisis

By Alex Kirby

If you really want to tackle the climate emergency, there’s one simple but often forgotten essential: throw your weight behind schools for girls, and ensure adult women can rely on the chance of an education.

Obviously, in a world of differences, some people can do more to tackle the climate crisis than others. So it’s essential to recognise how much neglected potential exists among nearly half the human race.

But there’s a snag, and it’s a massive one: the women and girls who can do so much to avert global heating reaching disastrous levels need to be able to exercise their right to education.

Bold claims?  Project Drawdown is a group of researchers who believe that stopping global heating is possible, with solutions that exist today. To do this, they say, we must work together to achieve drawdown, the point when greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere start to decline.

Educating girls has multiple benefits that go far beyond the individual and any particular society. It can also result in rapid and transformative change that affects the planet itself”

The project’s conclusions are startling − and positive. One is that educating girls works better to protect the climate than many technological solutions, vital though they are, and including several variants of renewable energy.

Yet, the group finds, girls and women suffer disproportionately from climate breakdown, and failures in access to education worsen this problem. After the horrendous 2004 tsunami, for example, an Oxfam report found that male survivors outnumbered women by almost 3:1 in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India. Men were more likely to be able to swim, and women lost precious evacuation time trying to look after children and other relatives.

But given more power and say in how we adapt to and try to prevent global heating, the female half of humankind could make disproportionally positive contributions, the project says.

Using UN data, it suggests that educating girls could result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 51.48 gigatonnes by 2050. The UN Environment Programme says that total greenhouse gas emissions had reached a record high of 55.3 gigatonnes in 2018.

Multiple barriers

The Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA) is a UK-based organisation which argues that humankind must undertake “widespread behaviour change to sustainable lifestyles … to live within planetary ecological boundaries and to limit global warming to below 1.5°C”.

It says that although access to education is a basic human right, across the world. girls continue to face multiple barriers based on their gender and its links to other factors such as age, ethnicity, poverty and disability.

But the RTA adds: “Research shows that for each intake of students, educating girls has multiple benefits that go far beyond the individual and any particular society. It can also result in rapid and transformative change that affects the planet itself.”

One example it cites is from Mali, in West Africa, where women with secondary education or higher have an average of 3 children, while those with no education have an average of 7 children.

Environmentalists’ failure

It says that while the UN currently thinks the world’s population will grow from 7.3 billion today to 9.7 bn by 2050, with most of the growth happening in developing countries, recent research shows that if girls’ education continues to expand, that number would total 2 billion fewer people by 2045.

It argues that it is not just politicians and the media who fail to focus on this grossly slewed access to education. The RTA says the environmental movement itself rarely makes connections between the education of girls and success in tackling climate change.

One example of conservation work being tied successfully to educating and empowering women it cites is the Andavadoaka clinic in Madagascar, which is funded by a British charity, Blue Ventures Conservation (BVC).

The link between population growth, the lack of family planning facilities and the increasing pressure on fragile natural resources prompted BVC to establish the clinic, which has been running for over a decade and is part of a wider programme serving 45,000 people. As well as the original clinic other projects have grown up that concentrate on specific economic and participation opportunities for women and girls.

Making a difference

In the least developed countries women make up almost half of the agricultural labour force, giving them a huge role in feeding the future population. But there is a massive gap between men and women in their control over land, their ability to obtain inputs and the pay they can expect.

Individual girls and women continue to make a massive difference, whether Greta Thunberg spurring action on climate change or Malala Yousafzai, shot for trying to attend school in Afghanistan, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign for girls’ education.

Women who have climbed high up the political ladder have sometimes used their success to ensure that girls are taken seriously. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president of an African country − Liberia − used her power to expand the quality of provision in pre-school and primary education by joining the Global Partnership for Education, and the former US First Lady, Michele Obama, spearheaded the Let Girls Learn organisation.

The Rapid Transition Alliance’s conclusion is short and simple: “Educating girls brings broad benefits to wider society as well improving efforts to tackle the climate emergency.”


This article was originally posted on the Climate News Network.
Cover photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.
New paper explores open Earth observations for sustainable urban development

New paper explores open Earth observations for sustainable urban development

A new discussion paper prepared by AidData and the Group on Earth Observations explores the role of open Earth observations for sustainable urban development.

Prepared for UN-Habitat’s World Urban Forum in United Arab Emirates, this paper concentrates on examples where Earth observation (EO) data can complement or enhance traditional data sources for cities and urban areas.

According to the United Nations, nearly 70% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. Ensuring sustainable urban development will be key for urban planning, land management and the timely achievement of the SDGs and the New Urban Agenda.

Download your copy of the discussion paper here.


For general inquiries or questions related to the paper please contact: Mihir Prakash (mprakash@aiddata.org)

For activities of GEO: Steven Ramage (sramage@geosec.org)

For questions about GeoQuery: Seth Goodman (sgoodman@aiddata.org)


Cover photo of Satellite imagery of Subarnarekha river delta and beach ridges by NASA via WikimediaCommons.
How fungi can help create a green construction industry

How fungi can help create a green construction industry

By Ian Fletcher, Leeds Beckett University

The world of fungi has attracted a lot of interest and seems to be becoming very fashionable of late. A new exhibition at Somerset House in London, for example, is dedicated to “the remarkable mushroom”. No surprise: we’re being promised that mushrooms may be the key to a sustainable future in fields as diverse as fashiontoxic spill clean ups, mental health and construction. It’s in this last field that my own interests lie.

Climate change is the fundamental design problem of our time: buildings are hugely complicit in the crisis. Together, buildings and construction contribute 39% of the world’s carbon footprint. Energy used to heat, cool and light buildings accounts for 28% of these emissions: households are the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases since 2015, accounting for a quarter of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2017.

The remaining 11% of buildings’ carbon emissions consists of those associated with construction and building materials. The UK construction industry, for example, uses around 400 million tonnes of materials each year and approximately 100 million tonnes become waste. Cement alone is responsible for a whopping 8% of global CO₂ emissions. Compare this to the much maligned global aviation industry, which emits 2% of all human-induced CO₂ emissions. Buildings and, by association, the construction industry, are profoundly responsible for climate change.

Cement – the key ingredient of concrete – is responsible for an astonishing 8% of all carbon emissions. Ricardo Gomez Angel/UnsplashFAL

There is evidently a real need for the construction industry to reduce the impact of its material and energy use and to take part in the transition towards a more sustainable economy by researching and using alternative materials. This is not an absurd ask: such materials already exist.

Mushroom materials

And yes, one such material happens to be derived from fungi: mycelium composites. This material is created by growing mycelium – the thread-like main body of a fungus – of certain mushroom-producing fungi on agricultural wastes.

Mycelium are mainly composed of a web of filaments called “hyphae”, which acts as a natural binder, growing to form huge networks called “mycelia”. These grow by digesting nutrients from agricultural waste while bonding to the surface of the waste material, acting as a natural self-assembling glue. The entire process uses biological growth rather than expensive, energy intensive manufacturing processes.

Close-up image of mycelium showing interwoven fine hyphae. © Ian Fletcher

Mycelium materials offer an exciting opportunity to upcycle agricultural waste into a low-cost, sustainable and biodegradable material alternative. This could potentially reduce the use of fossil fuel dependant materials. The materials are low-density, making them very light compared to other materials used in construction. They also have excellent thermal and fire resistant properties.

Fungal architecture

To date, mycelium materials have been used in a number of inventive ways in building projects. One particular company of note is The Living, a New York based architectural firm which designed an organic mycelium tower known as “Hy-Fi” in the courtyard of MoMA’s PS1 space in midtown Manhattan. Designed as part of MoMA’s Young Architects Program, the structure illustrates the potential of this biodegradable material, in this case made from farm waste and cultured fungus grown in brick-shaped moulds.

Mae Ling Lokko, Mushroom Panels and Pentagram interactive work. Part of Somerset House exhibition: Mushrooms The Art Design and Future of Fungi. © Mark Blower

Another project of note is MycoTree, a spatial branching structure made out of load-bearing mycelium components. This research project was constructed as the centrepiece for the “Beyond Mining – Urban Growth” exhibition at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2017 in Seoul, Korea. The project illustrates a provocative vision of how building materials made from mycelium can achieve structural stability. This opens up the possibility of using the material structurally and safely within the construction industry.

Mycelium materials have also been analysed for uses ranging from acoustic absorbers, formed packaging materials and building insulation. And NASA is currently researching using mycelium to build habitable dwellings on Mars.

Recycled buildings

I am investigating the development of mycelium materials using locally sourced materials such as wheat straw. Wheat straw is a cheap and abundant source of waste in the Yorkshire region, so would be a fantastic raw material for construction. My main objective is to develop a material for use in non-load bearing applications, such as internal wall construction and façade cladding. The material displays similar structural properties to those of natural materials like wood.

Close-up image of mycelium of P. ostreatus growing around wheat straw. © Ian Fletcher, Author provided

The development of mycelium materials from locally sourced agricultural waste could reduce the construction industry’s reliance on traditional materials, which could improve its carbon footprint. Mycelium composite manufacturing also has the potential to be a major driving force in developing new bioindustries in rural areas, generating sustainable economic growth while creating new jobs.

The construction industry is faced with a choice. It must be revolutionised. If we carry with business as usual, we must live with the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change.


This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Cover Photo by Elisa Kerschbaumer on Unsplash
Infrastructure project in India building resilience from the ground up

Infrastructure project in India building resilience from the ground up

new case study, produced by Acclimatise for The Resilience Shiftexamines a technical assistance programme in India supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).

The Infrastructure for Climate Resilient Growth (ICRG) project has initiated over 900 climate resilient infrastructure projects in just 4 years. Remarkably, it has achieved this without mechanical diggers, architects, or engineering companies being involved. How? By putting power in the hands of local communities themselves.

Listen to Daljeet Kaur, Climate and Environment advisor at DFID

The ICRG project, which is currently active across 22 districts in three Indian states, is connected with India’s largest social security programme which pays locals to build infrastructure assets. So far, the wage-for-labour programme has deployed $25 billion as wage payments to rural households in over 13,000 villages. Under the project, infrastructure assets, are identified by local communities and designed, built and maintained by ‘barefoot engineers’, living in remote rural communities. The ICRG project has provided training to over 10,000 people to ensure the infrastructure delivers resilience benefits.

The case study will be of interest to all those engaged with the infrastructure development processes, especially in developing world contexts. It provides details of the ICRG project’s approach at each stage of the infrastructure development process, from diagnosing and financing, to design and development and through to operations and maintenance. It shows how new approaches to infrastructure development can help deliver resilience benefits at scale for vulnerable communities in rural India.

In particular, the case study holds important lessons about participative approaches to infrastructure identification, design, construction, and maintenance by non-specialists. By focusing on the livelihood benefits, delivered both through the wages received for labour, but also thanks to the dividend from improved infrastructure, the ICRG project has been able to deliver a large and growing portfolio of assets in a short period of time.

View the case study materials online

Download a pdf of the case study here


Why we should be wary of blaming ‘overpopulation’ for the climate crisis

Why we should be wary of blaming ‘overpopulation’ for the climate crisis

By Heather Alberro, Nottingham Trent University

The annual World Economic Forum in Davos brought together representatives from government and business to deliberate how to solve the worsening climate and ecological crisis. The meeting came just as devastating bush fires were abating in Australia. These fires are thought to have killed up to one billion animals and generated a new wave of climate refugees. Yet, as with the COP25 climate talks in Madrid, a sense of urgency, ambition and consensus on what to do next were largely absent in Davos.

But an important debate did surface – that is, the question of who, or what, is to blame for the crisis. Famed primatologist Dr Jane Goodall remarked at the event that human population growth is responsible, and that most environmental problems wouldn’t exist if our numbers were at the levels they were 500 years ago.

This might seem fairly innocuous, but its an argument that has grim implications and is based on a misreading of the underlying causes of the current crises. As these escalate, people must be prepared to challenge and reject the overpopulation argument.

At Davos #WEF2020, @algore starts screaming about the urgency of controlling the climate: “This is Thermopylae! .. This is the Battle of the Bulge! This is Dunkirk! This is 9/11!”

Embedded video

Jane Goodall @ Davos: “All these [environmental] things we talk about wouldn’t be a problem if there was the size of population that there was 500 years ago.”

The world population 500 years ago is estimated between 420 and 540 million — 6.7 billion fewer people than today.

Embedded video

A dangerous distraction

Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb and Donella Meadows’ The Limits to Growth in the late 1960s and early 1970s ignited concerns over the world’s burgeoning human population, and its consequences for natural resources.

The idea that there were simply too many people being born – most of them in the developing world where population growth rates had started to take off – filtered into the arguments of radical environmental groups such as Earth First! Certain factions within the group became notorious for remarks about extreme hunger in regions with burgeoning populations such as Africa – which, though regrettable, could confer environmental benefits through a reduction in human numbers.

In reality, the global human population is not increasing exponentially, but is in fact slowing and predicted to stabilise at around 11 billion by 2100. More importantly, focusing on human numbers obscures the true driver of many of our ecological woes. That is, the waste and inequality generated by modern capitalism and its focus on endless growth and profit accumulation.

The industrial revolution that first married economic growth with burning fossil fuels occurred in 18th-century Britain. The explosion of economic activity that marked the post-war period known as the “Great Acceleration” caused emissions to soar, and it largely took place in the Global North. That’s why richer countries such as the US and UK, which industrialised earlier, bear a bigger burden of responsibility for historical emissions.

The high-carbon consumption habits of the world’s richest people are more to blame for the climate crisis than population growth in poor regions. Artem Ermilov/Shutterstock

In 2018 the planet’s top emitters – North America and China – accounted for nearly half of global CO₂ emissions. In fact, the comparatively high rates of consumption in these regions generate so much more CO₂ than their counterparts in low-income countries that an additional three to four billion people in the latter would hardly make a dent on global emissions.

There’s also the disproportionate impact of corporations to consider. It is suggested that just 20 fossil fuel companies have contributed to one-third of all modern CO₂ emissions, despite industry executives knowing about the science of climate change as early as 1977.

Inequalities in power, wealth and access to resources – not mere numbers – are key drivers of environmental degradation. The consumption of the world’s wealthiest 10% produces up to 50% of the planet’s consumption-based CO₂ emissions, while the poorest half of humanity contributes only 10%. With a mere 26 billionaires now in possession of more wealth than half the world, this trend is likely to continue.

Issues of ecological and social justice cannot be separated from one another. Blaming human population growth – often in poorer regions – risks fuelling a racist backlash and displaces blame from the powerful industries that continue to pollute the atmosphere. Developing regions in Africa, Asia and Latin America often bear the brunt of climate and ecological catastrophes, despite having contributed the least to them.

The problem is extreme inequality, the excessive consumption of the world’s ultra-rich, and a system that prioritises profits over social and ecological well-being. This is where where we should be devoting our attention.


This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Cover photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash
Climate crisis could reverse progress in achieving gender equality

Climate crisis could reverse progress in achieving gender equality

By Nitya Rao, University of East Anglia

People who directly depend on the natural world for their livelihoods, like farmers and fishers, will be among the greatest victims of the climate crisis. In vulnerable hotspots, such as the arid lands of Kenya and Ethiopia, farming communities are already struggling with droughts and water scarcity that kill their cattle and threaten their very survival. The glacial-fed river basins of the Himalayan mountains, or the deltas of Bangladesh, India and Ghana, are increasingly prone to floods, landslides and powerful cyclones.

As a result, men are often migrating further to keep their families going, looking for casual work in neighbouring towns or villages for a few days or weeks at a time, or to cities further away. Many try to return home when they can, with whatever they have earned. But during their absence, the entire burden of maintaining the family is on women.

Researchers are in a race against time to predict how climate change will affect these communities and help them adapt, with drought and flood resistant crops and cattle breeds for example. But it’s often overlooked that climate change will affect one half of humanity significantly more than the other. Longstanding gender inequality means that within regions of the world that are particularly vulnerable to climate change, women are likely to suffer more than men.

A woman leads goats to grazing and water in the Moyar Bhavani Basin, India. Prathigna Poonacha, Author provided

Isolated and overburdened

In a recent study, we found that extreme weather and unpredictable seasons disproportionately weaken the agency of women to find well paid work and rise above rigid gender roles, even when these appear to be bending after decades of reform and activism. Without support in the form of assured drinking water, energy, childcare or credit, women end up working harder and in poorer conditions for lower wages.

Women already in poverty are increasingly finding themselves in a vicious cycle of low productivity, indebtedness and food insecurity as crops and livestock fail, as we found particularly in semi-arid parts of Africa and India. Women in northern Kenya complained that they could no longer afford meat, so ate rice and potatoes instead, even when this wasn’t enough to satisfy their hunger.

As environmental stresses accumulate, community support networks break down. When people are displaced and have to settle elsewhere, men search for work and women are left behind at home, often in unfamiliar surroundings and lacking support from friends and relatives. But even if they do know people, with all the challenges of running the household in a strange environment, there is little time to help others.

As men migrate to find work, women have to shoulder the burden of housework, farming and childcare. Prathigna Poonacha, Author provided

With full responsibility for household chores, farming and caring for the children and elderly, women have less time to socialise or take part in community events, including meetings of the elected village government. If the state or charities can help, there’s often competition for securing those benefits. In Namibia, people tend to stick with their ethnic groups to guarantee access through collective effort, but this means that ethnic minorities in the region are often excluded.

In Mali, heavier burdens are placed on women who are young and less educated. In India or Pakistan, women belonging to a lower social class or marginal caste suffer the most. Gender relations differ in each place and according to each situation – they’re often too variable to emerge in broad national and global assessments. We tried to find a way to generalise our findings across 25 very diverse locations, in Asia and Africa, without losing the nuance of each woman’s experiences.

The bare necessities

If much of the problem is structural, then short-term solutions like cyclone shelters or drought relief won’t address the underlying causes of poverty and precariousness. Social safety nets that can ensure the basic necessities of food and shelter are needed, like the public distribution system for cereals in India, or the pensions and social grants available in Namibia.

To ensure that the health of people in these places doesn’t irreversibly decline, women need to be supported with child and healthcare services, but also drinking water and cooking fuel. The role of community support is crucial during crises, but there’s little that women can do to help themselves without resources and skills.

A woman collects drinking water from a well in Bangalore, India. Prathigna Poonacha, Author provided

Competitive labour markets are also undervaluing the labour of poor women. Ensuring minimum wages and fair working conditions would help, but these are hard to implement across borders. As climate change causes traditional livelihoods to collapse, migrant men are similarly exploited by new employers. Deprived of adequate food and rest, many end up sick and spend their earnings on medical treatment.

Tackling the climate emergency and making sure these women and men live meaningful lives will take more than overcoming gender stereotypes. If given support, they can find creative solutions to the disruption that climate change has brought. But this support must mean the guarantee of universal access to food, shelter and basic services. At COP25 in Madrid, world leaders should help vulnerable communities to adapt to climate change with resources and solidarity, not warm words and rhetoric.


This article was originally posted on The Conversation.
Cover photo by Asantha Abeysooriya on Unsplash
Technologies to manage climate change already exist – but UK needs to scale up efforts urgently

Technologies to manage climate change already exist – but UK needs to scale up efforts urgently

By Andreas Busch

When it comes to tackling climate change the UK is still taking baby steps. A lot more needs to be done – and fast – to hit the 2050 net zero carbon emission targets, which involves offsetting any emissions by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere.

While this process can build on future innovations, the technologies are actually already in place to make a real difference – technologies that, of all things, are based on the skills of the oil and gas industry.

The world is currently approaching an average global temperature increase of 1ºC compared to pre-industrial times, largely attributed to increasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2). Meanwhile, the BP Energy Outlook predicts a future increase in the use of fossil fuels.

The world population is growing and more people will be moving from low incomes to higher ones, resulting in a higher energy demand towards the end of the century. So achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 will be a tremendous challenge, requiring engineering solutions at mega-scale.

Effective solutions

The world already has effective engineering solutions to manage climate change and to limit global temperatures from rising above 1.5°C – a target set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But there is a desperate lack of conviction from politicians and society to address the climate emergency.

Morgan Stanley estimated that meeting the 2050 targets requires an investment of US$50 trillion. Put into perspective, that’s about 50 times the company value of Apple.

The report states that investments need to be in electric cars, renewableshydrogencarbon capture and storage (CCS) and biofuels. Many of these technologies rely on the need to use the geological subsurface for producing heat in the form of geothermal energy, permanently storing carbon dioxide or for temporarily storing hydrogen. For CCS, CO2 is pumped into porous underground formations (such as water-bearing saline formations or depleted oil and gas reservoirs) at a depth of 1km or more, where a tight sealing layer prevents these fluids from leaking towards the surface.

In Australia, for example, oil and gas giant Chevron has started a large-scale CCS project where 3.4-4 million tons of CO2 will be stored beneath the seafloor annually, but this initiative is by no means unique. There are currently around 18 international CCS projects that are removing between 30 and 40 million tons of CO2 each year. While these figures may sound impressive, they only represent about 10% of emissions produced by the UK alone each year.

CCS is a technology that can be linked to large-scale fossil fuel combustion for decarbonising the energy sector. It can also be linked to direct CO2 capture from the air or CO2 produced from using biofuels, both having the potential to achieve net negative CO2 emissions.

According to the recent IPCC special report, CCS, when deployed globally, could amount to a reduction of hundreds of billions of tons of CO2 emissions by 2050. The scale of the problem is vast and existing global projects need to be scaled-up between 100 and 1,000 times their current size to be truly effective.

What lies beneath

Another energy solution – where size is not an issue – is harnessing the tremendous heat that lies beneath the Earth’s surface to generate electricity and heat. Investment in these geothermal energy projects is increasing, but not at the pace required.

Geothermal energy can provide decentralised, affordable and continuous energy to heat homes or produce electricity. While this energy is right beneath our feet, progress on adopting it is slow due to a lack of investment and political support compared to other renewable energies such as wind and solar.

While the operational cost of geothermal energy production is competitive with other renewable energies, the downside is that investment costs are high, especially when producing from a greater depth. As a consequence, installed capacity is less than 1% of the global electricity consumption.

The same is true of progressing towards a hydrogen economy. Hydrogen can be produced in many ways and used to heat homes, fuel cars or produce electricity. Hydrogen reacts with oxygen to form pure water. It can be produced from renewable energies or from natural gas in a refining process.

The drawback of a hydrogen economy is that it produces CO2 as a by-product, which must ultimately be integrated into the CCS chain. Hydrogen consumption is demand-driven while renewable energies produce energy independent of demand. Overproduction can temporarily be stored in geological formations, and back produced when demand is increasing.

Climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg. Shutterstock

All these technologies depend on using the subsurface either as a temporary or permanent solution. It requires the expertise of geoscientists and petroleum engineers – highly skilled specialists who have delivered a fossil fuel-based economy in the past, and who will contribute to providing energy in the future. But more than that, it calls for visionary political ideas and legislation. For many people it is a crucial issue in the December general election.

But given what is required, society has still not yet fully recognised the urgency required to combat climate change. An energy transition at this scale will change the way people live and work, but it will also require people to properly grasp the scale of the problem. Student activist group Fridays for Future and groundbreaking young campaigners like Greta Thunberg pave the way. But only political leadership, policies and funding can make it happen.


This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Cover photo by David Dibert on Unsplash
Building with bamboo can cool the climate

Building with bamboo can cool the climate

By Kieran Cooke

There could be a way of countering one key aspect of the climate emergency by making much greater use of a widely-available plant: by building with bamboo.

Bamboo is already one of the most widely-used and versatile natural materials on the planet; foods, medicines and cooking utensils, musical instruments, clothes and furniture are made from it. It’s used as well for scaffolding, floor coverings, bicycle frames, promoting fertility in cattle – and for brewing beer.

Now researchers say increasing the use of bamboo in the building sector could play a big role in fighting climate change.

A study by researchers at Cambridge University in the UK and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria, published in the journal Scientific Reports, examined bamboo’s structure and how heat flows through it, a process known as thermal conductivity.

It’s estimated that the building sector in the UK accounts for between 30% and 40% of the country’s climate-changing carbon emissions.

“Renewable, plant-based materials such as bamboo have huge potential for sustainable and energy-efficient buildings”

This is due both to the production and use of energy-intensive materials – mainly steel and cement – and the energy required to heat and cool buildings.

“Renewable, plant-based materials such as bamboo have huge potential for sustainable and energy-efficient buildings”, says the study.

“Their use could dramatically reduce emissions compared to traditional materials, helping to mitigate the human impact of climate change.”

Using advanced scanning thermal microscopy, researchers looked at heat flows across bamboo cell walls and examined the plant’s vascular tissue, which transports fluid and nutrients within it.

The resulting images revealed an intricate fibre structure with alternating layers of thick and thin cell walls: it was found that the thicker walls generate the best thermal conductivity and are also responsible for bamboo’s strength and stiffness.

Fast-growing

“Nature is an amazing architect”, says Darshil Shah of the department of architecture at Cambridge, who led the study. “Bamboo is structured in a really clever way. It grows by one millimetre every 90 seconds, making it one of the fastest-growing plant materials.”

The study says the amount of heating and cooling required in buildings is fundamentally related to the properties of the material they are made from, particularly how much heat the materials used can conduct and store.

The researchers say that a better understanding of the thermal properties of bamboo could lead to the plant being more widely used – not just for flooring materials as at present, but also as part of the actual structure of buildings.

“People may worry about the fire safety of bamboo buildings”, says Shah. “To address this properly we have to understand the thermal properties of the building material.

“Through our work we can see that heat travels along the structure-supporting thick cell wall fibres in bamboo, so if exposed to the heat of a fire the bamboo might soften more quickly in the direction of those fibres. This helps us work out how to reinforce the building appropriately.” 


This article was originally published on the Climate News Network.
Cover photo by Dil on Unsplash
Adaptation Community Meeting: USAID’s Approach to Developing and Managing Shock Responsive Programming and Adaptive Mechanisms

Adaptation Community Meeting: USAID’s Approach to Developing and Managing Shock Responsive Programming and Adaptive Mechanisms

There is an increasing recognition within USAID and the larger international development community of the need for a shock responsive approach in development activities to help countries and communities recover from shocks and adapt livelihood approaches and management practices to mitigate the impacts of future shocks. These shocks (external short-term deviations from long-term trends) can have substantial negative effects on people’s current state of well-being, level of assets, livelihoods, safety, or their ability to withstand future shocks. Many areas prone to shocks also experience long-term pressures (e.g. degradation of natural resources, urbanization, political instability, or diminishing social capital) that further undermine the stability of a system and increase vulnerability within it. Shock responsiveness is especially relevant in regions and agro-climatic zones subject to recurrent shocks, such as droughts and floods. Even in areas not subject to recurrent climatic shocks, crises associated with a wide array of shocks and stresses are possible, if not probable, within USAID’s usual five-year project implementation timeframe. In turn, this demands a more flexible, shock-responsive approach to development investment and programming.

At the October Adaptation Community Meeting, André Mershon from the Bureau for Food Security presented on USAID’s guidance for shock responsive programming and outlined methods for proactively designing adaptive and shock responsive activities, as well as options to respond to shocks through existing development programs. This included examples from Ethiopia and the Sahel.


This article was originally posted on ClimateLinks.
Cover photo from Climate Visuals.
Towards better assessment of adaptation results

Towards better assessment of adaptation results

By Barry Smith

Multilateral climate funds are missing opportunities for better adaptation monitoring and evaluation for learning (MEL). Global Results Measurement Frameworks (RMFs) set up by climate funds should seek to align with, and nurture national MEL systems. This would benefit both the global climate funds and developing countries. So, how can global funds better embrace country-owned RMFs? 

IIED and partner Garama 3C Ltd are working on a project to help developing countries establish adaptation monitoring mechanisms that improve transparency, increase learning and effectively evaluate progress towards adapting to climate change. We have undertaken a series of ‘light touch’ case studies looking at how countries can align adaptation monitoring and evaluation (M&E) with other frameworks.  

Such an alignment would also help countries to grow their adaption M&E activities into full MEL systems, facilitating improved decision-making in future. 

Benefits of aligning global RMFs with national M&E systems

Global RMFs that are better integrated with national systems can help countries develop and embed national climate change M&E systems, generating country buy-in and integrating climate change MEL across government ministries to accurately report against their specific priorities. 

Despite these benefits, there is limited evidence that M&E systems are linking across levels – the global RMF with the national M&E. This misses out on efficiencies of using existing frameworks. An overemphasis on upward accountability through reporting to funders can neglect downward accountability and adds layers to already complicated M&E requirements. 

Countries are best placed to understand their own adaptation needs, and many countries are already developing diverse adaptation indicators. It’s these indicators that should be used for reporting.

Evidence of strong national M&E systems 

Adaptation M&E in many developing countries is at a nascent stage, but this is not always the case. Several countries have developed well-functioning M&E systems, presenting strong opportunities for alignment.

These systems include frameworks for climate change adaptation, such as Kenya’s monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) framework, established to track the results of mitigation and adaptation actions. The Philippines designed its Results-Based Monitoring and Evaluation System (RBMES) to measure results of implementing the National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) (2011). 

Some M&E systems integrate climate change indicators – the Cambodia Climate Change Strategic Plan 2014-23 (CCCSP), for instance. The global processes under the UNFCCC are also driving national-level M&E, such as the NAP process in Peru, Kiribati, and Ethiopia. 

There is already evidence that global climate funds can support national systems, as in Mozambique, Samoa and Cambodia where technical assistance provided by the Climate Investment Fund (CIF) under the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) has helped to  embed national M&E systems. 

Some countries, such as Morocco, already have environment information and monitoring frameworks that work well. Linking into these systems can deliver efficiencies by reducing reporting burden and speeding up integration of indicators into existing frameworks.

Two routes for alignment

We have analysed monitoring systems in MexicoMoroccoSouth Africa and the Philippines to assess their potential for linking with global frameworks and informing adaptation MEL.

Drawing from our analysis, we identify two broad routes for linking up:

i) global RMFs can align with strong country systems

ii) global funds can nurture less sophisticated country-level M&E systems. 

Our recommendations are detailed below:

i) Global RMFs can align with strong country systems

To effectively align with national systems, funds can harmonise their metrics with country-led results frameworks:

  • Align with country priorities: the different funds’ RMFs help countries focus their project proposals on results areas based on the funds’ strategic priorities. Aligning proposals with country priorities instead would allow countries to assess adaptation progress against their own country-specific goals.
     
  • Mandate country focal points with monitoring responsibilities: climate funds can provide a focus on portfolio or country-level reporting through delineating monitoring roles to country focal points to bring together MEL processes at different results levels.
     
  • Design RMFs with a stronger emphasis on downward accountability and use of results for better decision making: this will help alignment with measuring the long-term benefits of an investment rather than develop project-specific, detached indicator frameworks.

Funds can also use existing country frameworks – provided these frameworks are sufficiently robust:

  • National monitoring systems can inform climate funds’ RMF indicators: country-led indicators can provide more accurate  measures of adaptation success, by providing context-specific metrics to measure process and outcomes success. This is achieved through context-specific indicators to measure processes, outcomes and impacts over the longer-term.
     
  • Use national repositories and data systems for sustained reporting: using national repositories or data systems may not provide the same resolution of primary or project-specific data, but it can be an effective way to collect sustained data on a regular basis.
ii) Global funds can nurture less sophisticated country-level M&E systems

Where national systems are at an early stage of development, global funds can play a role in fostering MEL systems or integrating their own RMFs into the emerging national systems by providing financial and technical assistance:

  • Technical assistance: international funds can invest in national M&E systems and support the national MEL apparatus to ensure sustainability. As well as drawing on existing indicators from country-led frameworks, funds can support already-operational institutions and processes, as well as existing data sources, avoiding duplication and building on what is in place.
     
  • Improve countries MEL technical capabilities: a concerted global effort is needed to make sure that countries have the technical capacity they need to identify and implement adaptation actions and track their performance.
     
  • Integrate adaptation MEL within national budgetary systems or national MEL for development: linking climate results with national budgeting processes, medium-term financing and expenditure frameworks, as well as national development planning processes, helps ensure sustainability. Climate funds can play a key role in funding capacity development for MEL or institutionalising it by investing in long-term capabilities and MEL system development. 

This article was originally published on IIED blogs.
Cover photo from Climate Visuals