Friday, July 6, 2012

The Carbon Trade Comes to Malawi: What it means for the layman

It’s unprecedented: Malawi is now officially trading in carbon - an arrangement in which big polluters in the developed world are said to be reducing their emissions by funding projects that benefit poor nations who despite polluting less, bear the blunt of the developed countries’ pollution.

The Malawigovernment has just given an approval letter to CarbonSoft Corporation a London based carbon credit aggregator to start distributing solar lamps in Malawi’s rural and unelectrified households.

  “This [distribution of lamps] will enable them to stop burning kerosene, a highly potent greenhouse gas, for light, preventing CO2 emissions. CarbonSoft estimates that over the course of the six-year project, approximately forty-nine thousand tonnes of CO2 will be saved in this way, generating one carbon credit per tonne,” said CarbonSoft in a release published on

The solar light program is at the leading edge of a worldwide movement to reduce the burning of kerosene, key to the objectives of the Rio +20 conference on Sustainable Development, and the International Year of Sustainable Energy For All in 2012.

Shamiso Najira, Chief Environmental Officer and Focal Point for Clean Development Mechanism of the Environmental Affairs Department in the ministry environment and climate change said the approval was only given upon the Malawi government liking the project concept of CarbonSoft.

She said the role of the government will be to promote the project and said it would cover the whole country, a move which effectively means that CarbonSoft is aiming at eliminating Kerosene lamps in Malawi.

CarbonSoft is a carbon credits aggregator, it funds such projects and sells what ‘carbon credits’ a form of currency. The Collins English Dictionary defines a carbon credit as “a certificate showing that a government or company has paid to have a certain amount of carbon dioxide removed from the environment.” What this means however is that that company or government that has bought the credits maintains their pollution and uses the carbon credits to justify it.

Some people argue that the whole carbon trading  idea only allows rich nations to pollute more and not decrease their emissions because they  hide under the veil of buying carbon credits which are moneys given to a broker who is reducing carbon emissions elsewhere.

One critic of carbon trading writing in Time Magazine took a swipe at the practice saying: “In other words, the rich reduce their carbon output by not one ounce. But drawing on the hundreds of millions of net worth in the Kodak Theatre, they pull out lunch money to buy ecological indulgences.

“The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has been a failure under any metric you look at,” said Oscar Reyes, Associate Fellow, of the Institute for Policy Studies speaking at a press conference arranged by the forestry policy NGO FERN at the UN climate talks in Bonn
Said Reyes: “Its credit price is lower than a snake’s belly and its environmental integrity is about the same – there’s little proof it has produced real, actual, additional emission reductions...”

Will Farmers Like Ngwira really benefit from carbon trading

Shamiso Najira when asked if the project is enough to address the climate change effects was non-committal and said it depends on the ones understanding of the issue.

“It’s up to us as a country, if it contributes to our sustainable development it is fine,” said Najira

Even the civil society is not sure of the carbon trade, William Chadza, Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (CEPA) said the issue has two faces.

On one hand it is a welcome as it will lead to increased access to sustainable energy; address the challenges of our narrow Energy Policy; provides opportunities for financial gains from carbon markets; and increases Malawi's efforts towards climate change mitigation.

Conversely, there is growing evidence suggesting that most of the carbon trading related interventions have the west as the major beneficiary as these interventions will only lead to perpetuating greenhouse gas emissions.

“As more of these carbon trading related interventions get underway, the more levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the west remain the same. It is like providing permits to pollute. It promotes business as usual approach. In addition, recent figures on prices of carbon per tonne seem unattractive to warrant significant livelihood changes which the proponents seem to be portraying.” Said Chadza

Chadza said there is need to do a good cost-benefit analysis on the issue; meanwhile the rich nations will keep emitting carbon and using their huge profits to buy carbon credits.

It is the likes of Stanley Ngwira a teacher at Thunduti Secondary School at Uliwa in Karonga that will keep suffering.

Early this year rains took a break for almost three weeks when Ngwira’s maize needed it most, the result was almost no yield at all, Ngwira is putting his hopes on the salary he gets from his job as a teacher and even then, his year looks bleak and there are far more people like Ngwira many who do not have a salary.

For Ngwira, the solar lamp he is likely to receive from CarbonSoft will just be used at night but the gruesome effects of erratic weather likely to be the result of climate change may haunt him for a long time.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Just now he saw, now he doesnt

Doctors at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital have come to a painful conclusion; his eyes have been pierced and hence useless. On Thursday, doctors removed the left eye and the other will be removed on Monday and that will Maida Fedson blind a thing he never prepared for.

It was a day like any other, Maida having been laid off by his employer, was running up and down to find another job. He had to since living alone in Mbayani requires a job to pay the bills. Maida was invited by a friend in Machinjiri who had a job opening.

Luck was not with Maida as the friend was not home and Maida started back home he got delayed in the way and by 7pm he was approaching Chirimba Bridge the luck was to slip further to the negative.

“I saw two men, I passed one and as I approached the other one the one I had passed grabbed me from behind and squashed my throat so that I shouldn’t shout, the other man then flung his machete which landed on my head and opened me up,” narrated Maida sitting his hospital bed surrounded by family, sympathisers and the whole ward was quite listening too and interjecting with gasps when Maida toughed on the graphic part of his story.

Maida said the other guy then sliced a knife across his face cutting across the eyes like the equator, slicing both his eyes open, even though the eyelid was down. By then he had found space to shout and he had alerted a guard who came rushing to the scene scaring the assailers away.  

Maida was left with pangs of pain, he does not understand why he was attacked because not of the attackers took anything material from him apart from his sight and subsequently and arguably his life...
“At that moment, I knew my lights had gone off, that would never see again,” said Maida.

The guard took him to Chirimba Police where the officers starting bullying him instead of helping him.
“They said I had been attacked while trying to sleep with another man’s wife, they said I had been thieving, they started interrogating me despite my pain they asked me to list all my friends which I did promptly.

“They sent me to the minibus stage with a police report and that’s all they did for me, I had to use my own money and thanks to the kindness of the minibus conductor I was escorted to Queens (QECH),” said Maida.

Maida - Now a Liability

Four days will have to pass before Maida’s relatives knew of the attack; it had to take fellow patients alerting them a thing that infuriated Lickson Mangani, the nephew who stormed Chirimba police to ask after the behaviour of the cops.

“No statement was taken from Maida, they mocked him, they didn’t care to take to the hospital, they gave him a police report but when I went there they all denied until I showed them the report they gave Maida,” said an angry Mangani.

  The police report a bloody copy of which Nation on Sunday has seen has a Chirimba Police stamp, signed by a Jinazale on the 18 of June.

However Blantyre Police Assistant Public Relations Officer, Lameck Yona Thembachako, when contacted said Chirimba police has no vehicle and thus would have done nothing. On the officers mocking Maida, he said the police must have had their reasons because they cannot mock someone seeking their help.
Thembachako explained that when people go to the hospital they should return to police to have their statements taken.

Mangani said the Chirimba police then told him that the investigations would be difficult because nothing was taken from Maida. 

“After they remove the other eye, we are thinking of sending him back to the village in Salima where his mother and brothers are,” said Mangani.

Mangani said, and it is also calculable, that Maida’s life will not be the same again and appealed for well-wishers to step in since Maida’s mother is unemployed. 

Maida is obviously a strong character he gave the interview just hours after an operation to remove his right eye. He takes pills unaided and speaks calmly and the fact that he knew that he would not see seconds after being attacked will make his transition into blindness less stressful.

 To Maida the saying “Now you see, now you don’t” is actually literary applicable to his story and what awaits him in Salima is a story for another day, but surely a single, energetic 24 year old youth has been stopped in his tracks by people who are probably reading this and saying, “that’s us…”