News and Events

Water for the Future : Western Cape Government Seminar

In the In the first week of February, the Western Cape Provincial government held a symposium titled “Water for the Future”. Stephen Law, attending on behalf of the Environmental Monitoring Group, reported that presentations ranged from discussions on supply and demand dynamics, innovations in water and sanitation, abstraction for agricultural use, energy costs of water supply, and environmental aspects.

Gerhard Otto of Eden District Municipality reported that during a major three-year drought period a few years ago, the municipality was able to reduce domestic use to around 100 litres per person per day, which they enforced through awareness campaigns, water restrictions and heavy fines for transgression, among other measures. Their public awareness campaign, with a relatively small budget, saved more water than was supplied by the desalination plants that the were built at the cost of many millions.

Neil Armitage of the University of Cape Town shared his experience of a system in Singapore that diverts the city’s storm water runoff into an artificial lake. The collected water contributes substantially to the city’s freshwater needs, and largely due to this system, Singapore has managed to reduce its dependence on imported water from 80 per cent to 40 per cent of total demand. He also outlined a recent research project showing that storm water collection in Cape Town’s Liesbeek river catchment could similarly meet the demand of a substantial number of households.


Flowers for Valentine’s or food for the future?

Kathleen Buckingham of the World Resources Institute suggests that if he didn’t send you flowers this Valentine’s Day, you might comfort yourself by considering it a sign that he’s thinking of your children’s future.  Global population is expected to reach 9,6 billion in the next 35 years, and there is a roughly 70 per cent gap between crop calories produced today and that needed for the projected future population.  Yet vast areas of land and water are used to produce cut flowers, even in countries that need to import food products to maintain food security.  The impact of pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer use on biodiversity and water quality is also significant.

The cut flower industry is worth around USD 33 billion today, with the Netherlands, USA and Japan accounting for nearly half the world’s flower trade. In the past three decades, production shifted to countries with low labour costs, with the main producers now being Colombia, Kenya, Ecuador, and Ethiopia.  In Kenya, over 2,000 hectares of agricultural land is used for cut flower cultivation, and in Ethiopia, production land rose to 1,200 hectares in 2008.  Ethiopia’s earnings was USD 131 million in 2009 and this is expected to rise to USD550 million this year.


Informal meeting of the Green Climate Fund, Cape Town

In early February, the board of the Green Climate Fund convened an informal meeting in Cape Town.  Co-chairs Zaheer Fakir and Ewen McDonald assured the public that the GCF board is committed to meet its target of investing USD 2,5 billion during 2016, in terms of scale and also through delivering “innovative and high-impact projects”.  They said that they had achieved some progress with their work plan and strategic plan, and are operating effectively as a board.  The new board, with Fakir and McDonald as the new co-chairs, was elected in November last year.

A civil society campaign led by Friends of the Earth is underway to petition the board to reject accreditation of HSBC and Credit Agricole, which are reported to be among the top private bank financiers of coal.  Please contact Karen Orenstein for more information at


Development of a strategic framework and implementation plan for ecosystem based adaptation

This week the Department of Environmental Affairs and South African National Biodiversity Institute hosted a stakeholder consultation workshop to develop a Strategic Framework and Implementation Plan for Ecosystem based Adaptation (EbA) in South Africa. Participants represented a wide range of sectors and expertise, resulting in a rich and insightful planning session.  Candice Arendse reports on behalf of the Adaptation Network.

The workshop opened with presentations that provided an overview of EbA with an emphasis on the linkage between EbA and sustainable development. There were further presentations on national and international policies and meetings that support planning and implementation of EbA. The greater part of the workshop was spent on discussion involving all participants, with the intention of developing a proposed framework and refining a potential implementation plan.  Five distinct focus areas were identified to guide discussions.  Further information will be provided in our next newsletter.


Can oregano reduce methane in cow burps?

Researchers at the Danish Departments of Food Science and Animal Science are researching whether feeding oregano to cows can reduce the amount of methane they emit. It is known that adding fat and nitrate or increasing starch content can both improve feed quality and reduce methane, but organic dairy farmers are not allowed to use such supplements.  Oregano has a high essential oil content and antimicrobial effect, and can be a potential natural tool for reducing the amount of methane produced in the rumen.  This is a four year project, and the hope is that there will be benefits both to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving quality of milk and milk products.


No hope of climate change settling over the next 10,000 years

Projections of climate change concentrate on the next century and sometimes look further into the next two centuries, but there is little work on the potential impacts of climate change in the next 10,000 years.  A paper published in Nature Climate Change looked at the impact of four emission scenarios, incorporated new data on the relationship between carbon dioxide, sea level rise and temperature going back 20,000 years, and then compared this to modelling extending 10,000 years into the future. Human activities have already resulted in a release of about 580 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the researchers modelled the effects of releasing another 1,290 to 5,120 billion tons between 20000 and 2300, with carbon dioxide release ending in 300 years.  They showed that warming and related impacts persist for 10,000 years.