‘Analysis: Many facets to the ‘business’ of food security’

The Daily Maverick, 17 March 2011

Jay Naidoo concludes his column on food security by emphasising that this issue “is too complicated and too central to be addressed by governments alone”. Business, in particular, has a vital role to play. For a start, this is because most food is produced, processed, packaged and distributed by private sector companies. In South Africa, there is an especially dominant role for large companies in food value chains, with the majority of food sold to consumers by large retailers. So while the state can try to influence these value chains through regulation, incentives and the provision of infrastructure, much will depend on companies’ strategies and how they intersect with the growing challenge faced by both rural and urban poor people in accessing safe, nutritious food.

Indeed food security is already very much on the agenda of most large food companies, for good reason: They worry about their reputation when accused of profiteering at the expense of the poor, they worry about ensuring reliable supply to maintain efficient production or fill shelves and they worry about the conflict and revolutionary potential when people go hungry.

So there is already a range of corporate strategies and activities with direct bearing on food security, some of which are motivated by other competitive drivers. For a start, food inflation has motivated retailers to cut margins and control costs to maintain market share. Some have publicly sold basic food items at cost to attract customers in difficult times.

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‘China industry ordered to cut CO2 intensity by 18% by 2015’

Engineering News, 28 March 2011

China’s industrial firms will be forced to cut their carbon and energy intensity levels by as much as 18% over the next five years, according to mandatory targets announced on Monday.

The target was higher than first planned, with industries originally expected to cut CO2 and energy intensity – the amount per unit of industrial added value – by 16% over 2011-2015, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

For this year alone, Chinese industry will have to cut carbon and energy intensity levels by more than 4%, Xinhua said.
Industrial sectors will also be forced to slash water use by 30% by the end of 2015, and must also raise solid waste recycling rates to around 72% over the period.

China, the world’s biggest producer of climate-changing greenhouse gases, has pledged to cut carbon produced per unit of GDP by 17% by the end of 2015, with energy intensity also slated to fall 16%.

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‘Cabinet approves IRP2010 energy plan’

Engineering News, 17 March 2011

Cabinet has approved the policy adjusted integrated resource plan for electricity 2010 (IRP2010) for promulgation by the Energy Department.

Briefing the media on Thursday, following Cabinet’s regular Wednesday meeting, Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said it would form the basis of South Africa’s power generation plan for the next 20 years.

“Cabinet was informed by the need to diversify the energy mix, with specific emphasis on broadening energy carriers to include gas, imports, nuclear, biomass, renewable (wind, solar and hydro), as well as the efficient use of the existing resources, such as coal, while ensuring that we continue to invest in clean coal technology,” he said.

The IRP2010 would also place significant emphasis on intensifying the energy efficiency strategy.

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‘Water Management: Communities rise to the challenge of providing clean water’

By Karl Nerenberg and Michelle Hibler

Providing clean water for everyone is a global concern. But nowhere is this more challenging than in developing countries where one in five people has no access to safe drinking water.

Solutions to the problem have long focused on increasing water supplies through technological means — dams, diversion of water streams, and desalination, among them. But they aren’t enough: meeting the world’s water needs also requires better water management and effective institutions — it needs people. That is the thrust of research supported by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The three projects described below — in Egypt, Bolivia, and Burkina Faso — tell a compelling story of water and people and show how science can support the formulation of sound policies, provide tools for communities to find their own solutions, and lead to strong institutions to ensure that the gains are sustained.

These projects also clearly show that accessing, distributing, sharing, and conserving water requires a strong institutional framework.

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‘Global sustainable insurance initiative consultations launched in SA’

Engineering News, 16 March 2011

The United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep) Finance Initiative (FI) began global consultation sessions on its draft Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI) in Johannesburg on Wednesday, after whichr another six workshops would take place in different regions across the world.

The event was considered significant for the insurance industry nationally, regionally and globally, as it grappled with rapid changes in climate, in regulatory environments, in governance, and in socio-economics.

The meeting in Johannesburg was hosted by Santam and the South African Insurance Association (SAIA), with the aim of consulting on the draft PSI ahead of the United Nations Rio+20 conference on sustainable development scheduled for June 2012, which was where the final PSI would be launched.

Thus South Africa’s insurance industry was playing its part in the creation of a global best practice framework that would facilitate systemic consideration of environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities in core insurance companies.

Important roleplayers in the South African insurance industry were present at the workshop, and were encouraged to give honest feedback and suggestions for the PSI.

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‘World Water Day 2011: 22 March 2011’

International World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

An international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day.

Each year, World Water Day highlights a specific aspect of freshwater.

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‘Fast pace of African urbanization affecting water supplies and sanitation’

Rapid urbanization over the last five decades is changing Africa’s landscape and also generating formidable challenges for supplies of water and sanitation services, says a new UN report.

According to the Rapid Response Assessment by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN-Habitat, urban centers in Africa are growing at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world.

Today 40 percent of Africa’s one billion people live in urban areas – 60 percent in slums – where water supplies and sanitation are severely inadequate.

Africa’s urban population without access to safe drinking water jumped from close to 30 million in 1990 to well over 55 million in 2008.

Over the same period, the number of people without reasonable sanitation services doubled to around 175 million says the report launched on World Water Day 2011.

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