Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Acting Globally and Locally to Combat Climate Change

As Earth Day approaches, many are asking if international organizations are capable of handling the enormous and complex challenges of climate change. Some say that local action is the key, while others insist on the role of international organizations. On April 7th, environmental expert Dr. Jonathan Pershing of the State Department will host a webchat entititled "Acting Globally and Locally to Combat Climate Change." Join the webchat to discuss the effectiveness of multilateral international organizations like the United Nations in confronting the complex challenges of climate change and whether more can be done through alternative groupings or local action.

This webchat will take place on April 7 at 8 a.m. EDT (12:00 GMT).

Before joining the State Department, Jonathan Pershing served at the World Resources Institute, a nonprofit research organization, where he headed the climate and energy program. He also served as the lead author for the Nobel Prize–winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which provides regular assessments of climate change issues and was one of the U.S. negotiators for the U.N. Climate Convention and its Kyoto Protocol. Pershing holds a Ph.D. in geophysics and is the author of dozens of articles and books on climate change and climate change policy.

If you would like to participate in this webchat, please go to https://statedept.connectsolutions.com/globalconversations/. No registration is needed. Simply choose "Enter as a Guest," type in your preferred screen name, and join the discussion. We accept questions and comments in advance of, and at any time during, the program.
The transcript of this webchat will be available on America.gov’s webchat page, where information about upcoming webchats is also available.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tropical Forest Conservation and Adaptation to Climate Change

Armed with $4.5 billion in new funding pledges, world leaders are beginning to tackle a major contributor to climate change: deforestation.

In mid-March, representatives from more than 60 nations met in Paris for the International Conference on the Major Forest Basins to begin to develop a global plan to implement REDD — the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation program. It was the first follow-up to the Copenhagen climate summit in late 2009, and the 10 countries leading the effort say they will have a REDD plan completed for the United Nations climate meeting in Mexico in December. Under the program, dubbed REDD-plus, developed countries would pay developing countries to protect their trees. If implemented, it could become a cornerstone of the international effort to save tropical rain forests and other woodlands that are now disappearing at an alarming rate.

But this type of conservation cooperation is not new to the U.S., or to Botswana. In October 2006, the governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Botswana signed the first Tropical Forest Conservation Agreement in Africa. The agreement combines debt relief worth $7.4 million with conservation worth $8.3 million when converted into a trust fund (TFCF). The Agreement culminated in the formation of a company called Forest Conservation Botswana (FCB) which is a non-profit making entity. The Government of the Republic of Botswana in 2007 established a special fund, known as the Tropical Forest Conservation Fund (TFCF). The purpose of the TFCF is to promote activities designed to conserve, maintain and restore the forests of Botswana, including such world famous areas as the Okavango Delta and Chobe National Park region, in accordance with the terms of the Tropical Forest Conservation Agreement, the Forest Act and National Forest Policy.

This tropical forest conservation partnership between the United States and Botswana can serve as a model for international cooperation regarding climate change adaptation, particularly in light of the outcomes from last week's International Conference on Major Forest Basins in Paris.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What does the Clean Coal Debate mean for Southern Africa?

Southern Africa has considerable amounts of coal resources. While tapping into these natural coal resources can bring key economic income into the region, will the use of coal negatively impact the region's environment?

The debate over clean coal technologies is not unique to Southern Africa. Coal-fired electric generating plants are the cornerstone of America's central power system. To preserve this economically-vital energy foundation, innovative, low-cost environmental compliance technologies and efficiency-boosting innovations are being developed by the Energy Department's Fossil Energy research program.

Recently, America.gov invited two climate experts to debate the issue at http://www.america.gov/e-exchange_coal.html . Sasha Mackler, Research Director for the National Commission on Energy Policy, argues that low-carbon coal technology should be used as a first step in addressing climate change. David Roberts, Climate and Energy Writer for Grist.org, argues that emphasizing carbon dioxide emissions is a narrow view that ignores the connection between humans and the planet.

What is your view on clean coal? Do you think that Southern Africa can better develop their coal resources while at the same time balancing the effects of coal usage on the environment?

Model of clean coal electricity production courtesy of http://lugar.senate.gov/graphics/energy/alternatives/electricity/coal.gif

Monday, March 22, 2010

Today is World Water Day

By 2025, nearly 2/3 of the world's countries will be stressed by water scarcity. Water can threaten social and economic development. But with the right policies, many countries are managing their resources and delivering tangible results for their people, encouraging sustainable development for their people. Water security is integral to national security. The US is actively investing in projects to assist people in sustainably managing their water resources.
Secretary of State Clinton delivered a speech on World Water Day that highlighted these key issues. The transcript of that speech can be found at http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/03/138737.htm

Overhead view of man walking over parched earth (AP Images)
A shepherd walks on the dry bed of the Himayat Sagar reservoir in India.

Friday, March 19, 2010

What the US is doing about climate change

Many folks thoughout Southern Africa have asked us "What is the US doing about climate change?" Well, the answer is that the Obama administration has done more for the environment than any prior president in U.S. history. For starters, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 included more than $80 billion in clean energy investments to jump-start our economy and build the clean energy jobs of tomorrow. These types of investments demonstrate America's ability to adapt to climate change, reduce our dependence on oil, and create new economic opportunities in the green technology sector.

This week, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an interim progress report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. The report outlines the Task Force’s progress to date and recommends key components to include in a national strategy on climate change adaptation. The components include: integration of science into adaptation decisions and policy; communications and capacity building; coordination and collaboration; prioritization; a flexible framework for Agencies; and evaluation. View the press release.
Photo courtesy of AP Images.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Welcome to our blog! We hope that you find this blog a useful source of information and an exciting place for discussion about environmental issues in Southern Africa!

Please feel free to let us know if you have ideas of potential topics to discuss in this field.

Our office advocates USG positions in international negotiations with key decision-makers in the Southern Africa region; works with U.S. Government environmental, technical, and scientific and health agencies in their efforts in Southern Africa; and supports and implements regional and bilateral environmental programs. Our office also follows issues in USG health programs including Avian Influenza, Malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS through PEPFAR.