Blog

Jan 23, 2013

Written by Mariella Puerto, Senior Program Officer, Barr Foundation

Nearly two years ago, I started hearing about a professor doing research like I had never heard of anyone doing on greenhouse gas emissions. Professor Nathan Philips teaches in the Earth and Environment Department at Boston University (BU). He had put sensors on the roof of his office building to measure what he calls Boston’s “urban metabolism.” This is the ebbs and flows of carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane in a city’s atmosphere. Phillips had also driven nearly every street in Boston with a methane sensor in his trunk, taking readings of gas that leaks from natural gas pipelines that run under our streets.

I had read that methane is over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of climate impacts (see the EPA’s analysis for more on this). But I couldn’t find any good information on how big a problem this actually was. Meanwhile, advances in hydraulic fracking were triggering huge increase in our reliance on natural gas – which was being aggressively touted as a “clean energy” breakthrough.

I called Professor Phillips and asked for a meeting. What I wanted to know was: how big was this problem? And why was no one was talking about it?

That initial conversation led to others and, in mid-2012, Barr provided support to Boston University and to the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) to investigate the extent of natural gas leakage in Boston and Massachusetts and to explore potential policy solutions.

Both BU and CLF produced reports on their work at the end of November. Some of the major findings are below, though the most surprising and alarming takeaway is evident in this info graphic – we may be losing more ground than we’re gaining:

http://www.clf.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/InfographicHorizontal.print_.2.jpg

Major Findings from the BU and CLF reports:

  • Natural gas is escaping from more than 3,300 leaks in Boston
  • Most leaks are tiny ¬ although six had gas levels higher than the threshold at which explosions can occur.
  • In 2010, Massachusetts saved 1,097 million cubic feet of natural gas through energy efficiency programs. But in the same time period, Massachusetts lost more gas through leaks than it saved.
  • The costs of these leaks – about $38.8 million a year – are passed on to gas customers in Massachusetts.
  • Current state and federal policies provide disincentives for pipeline owners to find and fix leaks unless they are considered hazardous.
  • Building new transmission lines and new gas generation would be costly. Reducing leaks and increasing the efficiency of the existing infrastructure (including gas storage) could provide a more cost-effective, environmentally beneficial means of meeting energy needs.
  • There are a number of policy solutions that can be pursued cost-effectively and expeditiously, solutions that are outlined in CLF’s report.

Almost one-third of the natural gas pipelines in Massachusetts are made of cast iron or unprotected steel, materials that are highly prone to leaks. Fifty percent of the cast iron pipelines in the U.S. are concentrated in Massachusetts and only three other states: New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, where this issue deserves a much closer look as well.

For more information, visit:

Conservation Law Foundation – “New Report Shows Lost Natural Gas Emissions Costing Millions To Massachusetts’s Gas Customers And Harming Environment”

Boston University – “Boston’s Street-Level Gas Leaks: 3,300-Plus”

Living on Earth, Public Radio International – “Rampant City Gas Leaks”

In a related report issued by the Analysis Group, Paul Hibbard – former Chair of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities – and Craig Aubuchon describe a benefit-cost model they used to quantify the benefits of reducing gas leaks through expanded utility pipe replacement programs. Reducing leaks generates economic benefits by (1) reducing the amount of gas that utilities buy and charge ratepayers for, and (2) reducing the social impact of higher greenhouse gas emissions. The authors quantify significant benefits under a wide range of assumptions, and compare them to the cost of utility pipe replacement programs.

 

Jan 4, 2013

by Pat Brandes, Executive Director, Barr Foundation

This piece appeared earlier under the title, “Why Building Resilient Networks Matters,” as a guest post on Beth Kanter’s blog at: http://www.bethkanter.org/networks-resilience/ and can be found on the Barr Foundation's website here.

As Hurricane Sandy was barreling up the Atlantic coast of the United States, a husband and wife in their early 90s, frail of body and mind though resolute (some would say stubborn) of spirit, finally gave in to the pleadings of their family. The couple left their home on a barrier island off Long Island and evacuated inland. But given the size of the storm, even their safe haven was not without damage. They lost power, heat, and light. They could not cook. They had no internet access and – most distressingly for me – no phone service at all. This couple is my parents.

After two days I was driven to distraction with worry about their ability to deal with the cold. I wanted to get them to safety. But major obstacles were in my way. First, no trains, buses, or planes moved to or from New York City. The only way to travel was by car. But even if my parents could drive (they can’t), and even if they had anyone nearby to drive them (they didn’t), traffic lights weren’t working. Many roads were closed. None of the bridges on or off Long Island were open. When they evacuated from their small island, I reminded them to take their cell phones and chargers. I assumed that would be our safety net. But when that system failed too, I realized I had not bothered to get the street address of where they would be.

Yet even despite these obstacles, on the night of the third day after the storm, I welcomed these two climate refugees into my home north of Boston.

How did it happen?

A network of grandchildren was activated. Aided by technology, they gathered and shared and used data to figure out where my parents were and how to get them out. Tweeting and texting various clues to each another, one cluster of grandchildren figured out the street address. Another cluster evaluated the alternatives and determined that my son (who was also without power on the 23rd floor of his apartment in lower Manhattan) had the best shot of making his way to them. So, he biked uptown and rented a car. Then, one of his cousins texted directions based on a new smartphone application called “Waze,” which crowdsources data from nearby drivers to create real-time traffic and road reports and find the best routes. This cousin spent hours assisting my son via text, despite intermittent cell coverage and a dizzying maze of hazards – many streets and bridges closed, while others were a tangle of gridlock – until my son made his way out of the city and to my parents on Long Island. Crowdsourcing also provided information on gas stations that were still open (and where lines were actually moving). This was vital intelligence for an escape route that included a long drive to a ferry terminal at the eastern-most point of Long Island. From there they traversed Long Island Sound to New London, Connecticut, and then drove to Boston.

Upon arrival at my front door, my father’s first words to me were, “I feel like I’m waking up from a nightmare.” I led him and my mother to the sofa in my living room – complete with modern comforts like heat and light. We turned on CNN and watched together as scenes from New Jersey and New York flashed across the screen. “It’s not a nightmare,” I said, “It’s for real.”

Hurricane Sandy caused over 100 deaths in 10 states and left more people in the dark than any other storm in United States history. Up and down the nation’s most densely populated corridor it caused damage currently estimated at $50 billion. Somewhere during the frenzied media coverage of Hurricane Sandy, the press stopped using the word “hurricane.” It no longer seemed adequate to describe this phenomenon of unprecedented power. And so Sandy became the “megastorm” or, fittingly for its occurrence so near Halloween, “Frankenstorm.”

Sandy exposed our vulnerability to climate change. And while our climate is no respecter of race or class or ethnicity – the winds blow and the rains fall on everyone – this storm also exposed the deep inequities between our haves and our have-nots. Manhattan’s wealthiest 20% have incomes that are, on average, 40 times those of the poorest 20% ($400,000 vs. $10,000). This puts New York City’s economic disparity on par with places like Sierra Leone or Namibia. What that means in the face of a storm like Sandy is that, as the subways and trains started running again, and as much of Manhattan was getting back to some sense of normalcy, thousands of people in public housing were still without heat, water, electricity, or food. The homeless population in the city doubled to 80,000. Those with the fewest resources found themselves most vulnerable to the infrastructure failures.

Undoubtedly, the inequities in who bears the brunt of climate change will play out in similar ways on the larger global stage. Indeed they already are. In Haiti, for example, which was not even in the storm’s direct path, Sandy wiped out 40% of the autumn crop. According to a report by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 450,000 people (including at least 4,000 children under five) are now at risk of severe acute malnutrition (for more, see: “Haiti faces hunger catastrophe after hurricane Sandy destroys harvests”).

Regardless of economic status, however, some are always quicker than others to absorb disruptions like Sandy and bounce back. And it isn’t unusual for the most resilient among us to bounce back even stronger than before. Meanwhile, when their peers are knocked down, they stay down for a long time. Some never regain their former footing. What distinguishes the two groups? My family’s experience in the wake of Sandy underscores for me at least two essential ingredients for this kind of resilience – namely, robust networks and a sense of agency.

For weeks after the storm, the same network that helped rescue my parents has remained active on text, email, and social media. They have taken and posted pictures of the damage to my parents’ home (including three feet of flooding in their first floor), registered them with FEMA, and helped them begin the recovery process. I had hoped this experience might convince these two nonagenarians it was finally time to give up living alone on an isolated island, but… no chance. Right away, my father, an avid striped bass fisherman, was on the phone with the Coast Guard to launch a search for his beloved 17-foot Whaler. It doesn’t seem to matter that his short-term memory is going or that there are days when he loses track of where he is. He is a man on a mission.

In similar fashion, my mother has been directing clean-up crews by email via her iPad even though her fingers are so arthritic she has to use a stylus. She doesn’t see well and can barely hear any more. But her mind is keen and she is making sure she gets estimates in advance. Each morning this old couple huddles together to plot the day and to scan the news for indications they can return to their home.

Their resilience is a result of both their supportive network and their own agency. Without the network to help them navigate the maelstrom of plumbers, electricians, demolition crews, oil burner replacements, insurance companies, and FEMA (to say nothing of their daily needs), they would be lost. But just as critical is their ability to shift their thinking – to see themselves not as helpless victims of great trauma, but as agents of their own destiny. With the elderly, it is all too easy to do things for them or just tell them what to do. Left to their own devices, they are often agonizingly slow. They get things mixed up. Their inefficiency tries our patience. It is hard to favor their agency over their fragility. Yet, that agency, that frame of mind is paramount if they are to weather whatever disruptions lie ahead.

This kind of resilience for absorbing and reacting to disruption is as important for individuals as it is for cities and communities. Sandy has added urgency to debates over how best to prepare New York City for a future of rising seas and storm surges that are more frequent and more severe. While “hard engineering” solutions like barrier walls and dikes have their champions, the “soft infrastructure” (sometimes called “ecological”) approach is getting a lot of attention as well.

Architect Stephen Cassell, for example, proposed protecting New York’s financial district with a ring of tidal salt marshes and wetlands around lower Manhattan. Rather than try to shield the city from storm surges, such barriers would literally absorb them. Cassell says, “Our goal is to design a more resilient city. We may not always be able to keep the water out, so we wanted to improve the edges and the streets of the city to deal with flooding in a more robust way.” Another architect, Kate Orff, has proposed oyster-encrusted barrier islands to mitigate surges off Brooklyn. As Orff explains, oysters “agglomerate to make rich reef mosaics, and reefs are the most effective way of attenuating waves, because they go deep into the water column, stopping the velocity flow, where it starts to do damage.” What both of these proposals have in common is a focus on enhancing the city’s natural resilience by increasing its ability to absorb the disruption of surges.

In order to adapt to climate change we will need to learn another lesson from Sandy – in the face of major disruptions, centralization can be a major weakness, whereas networks are a source of strength.

Two weeks after Sandy hit, 300,000 people in New York and New Jersey were still without power. In addition, the recovery was slowed by gas rationing. Even where there was ample supply, gas terminals and a significant number of gas stations had no power to pump gas. Conceived in the 19th century, our power grids are simply too centralized. And in the face of a storm like Sandy, our system is actually too big not to fail. This vulnerability places the health and safety of our population at great risk, and it can obviously be enormously disruptive to our economy. So what will replace our centralized power grids?

Once again, networks emerge as part of the solution. Micro-grids that can both be coupled and decoupled from larger grids are within technological reach. Photovoltaics, fuel cells, appliances that generate their own electricity, and ideas yet to be imagined will form decentralized component parts that can be networked together with distributed intelligence. The transition from a centralized grid to locally-generated power systems that can operate independently is not unlike the transition from mainframe to cloud computing. Local agency arranged in networks that can decouple to operate independently is essential to resilience.

As we reflect on Sandy and its implications for the future of our country, we also need to consider the impacts of climate change on poor nations. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island were severely damaged and the statue has only just been illuminated again for the first time since the storm. Through our nation’s history, this light has served as a beacon to millions looking for a better life. In the next century, as millions more the world over are displaced by climate change, we can be sure that the pull of that beacon will remain strong.

This is all the more reason to understand and invest in resilience.

 

Nov 13, 2012

At the EGA Retreat this year, MTA Sustainability Initiatives Director Projjal Dutta discussed the New York Subway and transit trends. He mentioned many potential problems the subway could face with the increasing frequency and intensity of storms from Climate Change. Less than one month later, many of his projections became a reality as Hurricane Sandy landed on the East Coast. Tracy Austin, Executive Director of the Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas, speaks on the topic:

“Scenes from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy had an eerie déjà vu effect. I was immediately reminded of Projjal Dutta’s presentation at the 2012 EGA Retreat. Projjal’s overview of how the MTA is trying to address climate risks that threaten the subway system that so many New Yorkers depend upon, but that we also tend to take for granted, focused mainly on the amount of public expenditure that would be needed to protect the system from climate-related risks. But Hurricane Sandy has shown us in much graphic terms what’s at stake: the toll that climate change will have on human beings and our way of life here in the Big Apple. If there is a silver lining at all in this cloud, it is that ‘Sandy’ is a wake-up call about the urgency of the need to address climate change, through adaption as well as through mitigation. “

Related to Tracy’s notation of a potential ‘silver lining,’ New York politicians are at last openly acknowledging the presence and impacts of Climate Change, which will hopefully lead to protective measures for infrastructure like the New York Subway. As a start, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Cuomo have both announced the need for new protective measures of the city and state in high-profile interviews and press conferences. Hopefully this change in the conversation will lead to new policies for adaptation and mitigation not only in New York and the region affected by Sandy, but in the U.S. as a whole. Right now, many dedicated organizations are responding to the immediate aftermath of the storm, providing aid and assistance to those greatly affected, including a noteworthy response by the Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas. If you are interested in providing immediate aid for those impacted, please contact us.
 

Oct 26, 2012

At the EGA Retreat this year, we had a concurrent session about university endowments invested in the coal industry. Andy Behar, CEO of As You Sow Foundation, and Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director of Wallace Global Fund, led a fantastic skit with two students working to change their universities’ investment portfolios to be greener and more socially responsible.

The students were specifically working to change their universities’ investments from the coal industry, which of late has often been a poor choice of investment even from a profits standpoint, to investments in the green energy market, a greener, more socially responsible choice of investment for the student’s futures. The students, running into many challenges with their schools’ endowment fund managers, university chancellors, principles, and boards, were glad to have Foundation support in this new mission.

The students and foundations in this session provided an excellent example for this field, in which foundations could potentially have major impact in line with their overarching missions and goals: ethical investing. There have been ethical investment options available to investors for quite some time, and as shown in The Environmental Grantmakers Association’s 2008 publication, “Investing for Impact: A Snapshot of EGA Members’ Leveraged Investment Strategies,” EGA members have been aware of and involved in ethical investing for years. Only recently, however, has ethical investing gained momentum as a movement, with many different actors getting involved, opening a new door for foundation involvement as well.

According to research conducted in light of Ethical Investment Week in the UK, which just ended on Friday (10/20/12), there is a growing interest in ethical investments that is part of a broader movement to build partnerships toward positive social change. In fact, half of investors across a spread of industries now say that they want ethical investments to be part of their portfolio.

However, one reason ethical investing has been so slow in its emergence is the question of profitability. So, even if the desire is there to invest in more socially responsible markets, will investors actually be able to garner profit with these new ethical investment decisions, making this upward trend of socially responsible investing a sustainable and even growing market?

Well research for Ethical Investment Week actually shows that not only are these ethical investments keeping up with much of the mainstream market, some are actually well surpassing the standard expectations and proving to be better choices for their investors. The UK ethical investments market is steadily growing, with 11 billion pounds currently invested in the green and ethical investments market – 4 billion more pounds than 10 years ago.

The shift in ethical investing includes a multitude of types of investors, including charities, philanthropic organizations and socially responsible corporations that want to invest in ethical and profitable markets. This shift gained some substantial momentum after some of the recent banking scandals and continues to gain momentum, as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) becomes a more prevalent force. Philanthropy – Foundations’ own investment portfolios - is also joining the movement in the UK, as major donors put more focus on giving today.

So what does this upward trend in ethical investing show? It shows that a more aware, socially alert public attitude in the UK is leading to positive social changes. Businesses are either in the same mindset or are responding to this attitude change. Regardless, it’s good news for the future of ethical investing, for making profits with positive social impacts rather than harmful ones, and for society at large. Foundations can play a role by changing their own portfolios as well as by encouraging more ethical investing of other organizations, such as universities’ and corporations that are interested in taking on more socially responsible roles.

 Consulted works: http://www.xperedon.com/news_1812

Oct 22, 2012

Health and Environmental Funders' Network interviewed EGA's Knowledge and Program Manager, Franny Canfield, and Executive Director, Rachel Leon, about EGA's Tracking the Field Database.  Learn new insights from their answers about the database, including changes in funding trends and new ways EGA members have been using the data to stengthen their grantmaking. 

Below is a sample of a few questions from the article (you can see the full length article here).  Please contact Franny Canfield (fchiles@ega.org) with any questions or comments about Tracking the Field.  You can also contact Franny about Tracking the Field Reports for specific issue areas. 

Questions and Answers selected from the article 'Tracking the Field' by Health and Environmental Funders' Network:

What is Tracking the Field?

Tracking the Field is an annual report that analyzes environmental giving trends of EGA members and overall environmental philanthropy. The project is based on data collected by our research team. The researchers analyze all of our members’ 990 tax forms, grantees and foundation websites to categorize over 10,000 grants. It also includes in-depth reports on more specific regions and issue areas. In 2012 EGA launched an interactive searchable database available to EGA members as a tool for them to utilize, and to help to enhance our community capacity to interact all year-long.

So what does the latest Tracking the Field tell us are the current trends for overall environmental giving?

The report will show a large increase in grantmaking by EGA members in 2010, after a dramatic drop in funding in 2009 in the aftermath of the Great Recession. This increase in 2010 reflects almost 2,000 more grants and over 155 million dollars in environmental giving.

What lessons has EGA learned about tracking grants in cross-cutting issue areas?

We have found that many grants that we would consider to be “environmental” were not necessarily categorized by our member foundations as being environmental because they were outside of the foundation’s environmental program area. We believe that a sustainable communities grant or environmental health grant that is funded out of a community-based program area is equally important to include in our analysis. Therefore, our research team looks at all of our members’ grants rather than focusing on environmental programs.

How are EGA members using the data?

EGA members have been using Tracking the Field to find new partners, learn about trends, and make program related decisions based on gaps in funding. The Tracking the Field searchable database has allowed members to search issue areas, geographic regions, and possible grantees to connect to other EGA members with similar grantmaking interests. We have also heard from many program officers that they have used Tracking the Field as a valuable lens on the wider field of environmental philanthropy and to identify future trends and priority areas in discussions on their dockets with their boards.

Is EGA planning any upcoming releases on specific interest areas?

In 2011, EGA released a report focused on international grantmaking leading up to Rio +20 in partnership with the Ford Foundation. We are currently talking to a number of foundations about other focused research. We hope to hear from the EGA and HEFN community about what would be the most useful next steps for the health and environment focused community. We are excited by the amount of data we have collected over the years and look forward to digging in where we can add value!

We welcome ideas for collaboration, drawing on our baseline of data to help inform and strengthen environmental philanthropy.

 

See the full article here: http://blog.hefn.org/2012/10/22/tracking-the-field/

Author of the full-length article: Lauren Linville, Health and Environmental Funders Network

Oct 9, 2012

Authored by: Pat Macdonald, Assistant Vice President, Greater Kansas City Community Foundation

http://www.givingbetter.org/giving-blog/movement-give-and-grow-greens

Here at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and Greater Horizons we make it our business to help donors connect to the community and social issues that are important to them. So, as climate change remains a robust international debate and helping urban households and schools increase access to healthy foods takes its place in the national spotlight, it hasn’t surprised us to see a steady uptick in the numbers of our donors who are interested in environmental sustainability.

Green Giving

To help us connect to current information and trends on this subject, we participated in the Environmental Grantmakers Association’s (EGA) 25th Annual Fall Retreat in New Palz, N. Y. this week. EGA convened some 350 grantmakers from around the country to exchange innovative practices, lessons learned, and progresses made in resource conservation and use through philanthropy.

A Royal highlight (literally speaking!), facilitated by GRACE Communications Foundation, was a congratulatory address to EGA given by HRH, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales for EGA’s 25 years of promoting effective environmental philanthropy. An outspoken advocate of sustainable farming practices for 30 years, and author of On the Future of Food, Prince Charles underscored the complex and interrelated environmental impact of industrialized food production on local ecosystems. He contrasted the outcomes against the benefits to public health and employment safeguards provided by sustainable food production systems such as locally, organically grown foods.

Giving GreeA retreat field trip visited Brooklyn Grange (pictured here). It is one of more than 700 registered urban commercial gardens in NYC. It is located on the rooftop of the Brooklyn Naval Ship Yard and covers the full 65,000 square foot building, with over 45,000 square feet of cultivated space. Brooklyn Grange has supplied more than 40,000 lbs. of organic vegetables to NYC restaurants since 2010.

Attendees of the 25th Environmental Grantmakers Retreat left fully affirmed and evermore committed to philanthropy that facilitates education and implementation of effective forms of resource conservation and healthy, sustainable systems for food production. We look forward to sharing what we learned with our donors who have a passion for green living (and green giving)!

Jun 21, 2012

If one can accept that mega confabs such as Rio+20 are inevitably about more talks, then the text (outcome) of the negotiating document that was finalized at about 3 AM on Tuesday, June 19th, will not be surprising (or shocking). At yesterday’s breakfast briefing for funders on inside strategies and groups, organized by the Consultative Group on Biodiversity (CGBD), Environmental Grantmakers Association (EGA) and the Funders Network for Transforming Globalization (FNTG), we heard an excellent overview from the South Center.

Key Issues & Outcomes

1. Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR)
CBDR is one of the fundamental principles of sustainable development and International Environmental Law for addressing equity that was formulated specifically in the context of the 1992 Rio/Earth Summit. CBDR affirms that all countries have a common responsibility to protect our environment, but these responsibilities are also differentiated. Industrialized countries have a greater responsibility because of their greater contribution to the environmental crisis and because of their higher economic status. The basic premise of CBDR is that if you treat “unequals” equally, you exacerbate inequality.

Twenty years later, almost all the rich countries, including the EU and the U.S are asserting that no single Rio principle should be singled out and a general reference to the full set of Rio principles is sufficient. In the end, it was mentioned twice, once less than in the original 1992 text.

2. Green Economy
Both the term and interpretation of the “green economy” remain highly contested. The green economy, as the roadmap to the future with clear targets was favored by the EU, while the U.S vacillated on their position. The G77 and China have moved from opposing it to questioning it to taking a “need to discuss it more” approach. The outcome for now is that the concept needs to evolve further through more engagement.

3. Sustainable Development Goals
SDGs are supposed to carry forward the Millennium Development Goals, which end in 2015, as well as integrate sustainability into the MDGs. The EU, UAE and some of the poorer countries favor it. The U.S views it as aspirational. The G77 and China agree on the concept as long as it explicitly advances the three pillars of sustainable development, i.e., economic, social and environmental benefits for all. They want SDGs to be determined through the intergovernmental process in the context of a post MDG era and a report in 2014 at the UN General Assembly. They oppose creating SDGs outside of the intergovernmental process. SDGs are a potentially important mechanism for addressing the implementation gaps of the last 20 years (i.e., the unmet goals of 1992).

4. The Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development
IFSD is basically about how to enable a strong compliance regime and meet the governance gap with respect to the current structure of the UN. African countries favor strengthening the UNEP in its home base in Nairobi. The U.S Canada, Australia and Japan oppose specific commitments for UNEP, largely because they don’t want to commit additional dollars during uncertain economic times. The EU supports it. Since the U.S is the biggest financial contributor to the UN, the politics of who pays is viewed as the explanation for the difference in position between the U.S and the EU. In the end, the agreement was to open the intergovernmental process to all stakeholders and form a high level forum of 30 representatives nominated by member states, which will make recommendations in 2013 on how to strengthen compliance with respect to existing institutions and bring coherence to the overall system.

5. Means of Implementation
MOI refers to implementing sustainable development by breaking the link with the fossil fuel based model of development by providing the necessary financing and technology transfer from rich to poor countries. The rich countries not only opposed making any commitments about the means of implementation but wanted it deleted it or have any reference to MOI taken out of the text altogether. The rich countries also wanted to delete language that call for a balanced treatment of intellectual property rights. It should be noted that in 1992 the UN Secretariat estimated that the rich countries needed to provide $100 billion per year to the poor(er) countries. The poor countries feel that they are being asked to take on more financial and other obligations through the concept of the green economy and sustainable development goals, and that there is backsliding on the commitment for technology transfer. In the end, there has been no commitment on specific dollar amounts or on technology transfer.

Thoughts Going Forward
Rio+20 has not saved humanity and our planet but the dialogue must continue. The world is very different compared to 1992 – carbon emissions have increased dramatically as has inequality. But technology, particularly connecting technologies and advances in renewable energy can be game changers for sustainability and democracy. Stakeholder engagement, capacity building, public education and new ways of organizing, mobilizing and communicating are all essential for negotiating power, resources and rights in an unequal world and for finding common language for a shared vision of the future we want.

Written by Mafruza Khan, EGA