Archive for the ‘ecology’ Category

Cuba has a plan for responding to climate change

June 17, 2017

By W. T. Whitney Jr., June 15, 2017

Cuba’s Council on Ministers on April 25 approved “Life Task (“Tarea Vida”): the State’s Plan for Confronting Climate Change.” Cuba’s National Assembly will soon consider Life Task for approval. Implementation will be the responsibility of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment (CITMA). The ministry’s head, Elba Rosa Pérez, indicated that the Plan will require “progressive investments executed over short (the year 2020), medium (2030), long (2050), and very long (2100) terms.”

The unveiling of Life Task comes as the latest manifestation of Cuba’s sustained endeavor to contain the impact of climate change. The Cuban government has dedicated resources and talent to the project over the course of many years. Policy makers have relied on facts, data, and ongoing research. The process has been orderly and thorough, and yet accepting of modifications to fit with new realities. Crucially, the nation has responded to climate change on behalf of all Cubans.

In June1992, Cuban President Fidel Castro was in Rio de Janeiro attending the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development – the “Rio Earth Summit.” There, nations of the world arranged for future UN – sponsored meetings at which scientific findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change would be reviewed. Those meetings, the “Conferences of the Parties,” have made recommendations and facilitated actions. The Paris agreement of 2015 was one of them.

Castro could well have stayed home in 1992; in the wake of the Soviet collapse Cubans were enduring humanitarian and economic disasters. He was in Brazil because the Cuba he spoke for espouses solidarity with all people. In remarks to the delegates, he gave voice to Jose Marti’s idea that “the homeland is humanity.” Castro warned of danger to humankind “due to the accelerated and progressive destruction of its natural living conditions.”

Afterwards, the government he led took steps on behalf of its own people. It created the Institute of Meteorology, the Institute of Hydraulic Resources, and networks of environmental agencies. It produced maps: a “Climate Atlas,” a national atlas, and soil and geological maps. In 1993 it created “The National Program for the Environment and Development.” The Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment took shape in 1994. In 1997, Law 81 defined the structure and functioning of centers specializing in environmental work.

Cuba’s Academy of Sciences initiated studies in 1991. The Institute of Meteorology issued two major reports in 1998 and in 2000. After Hurricanes Charley and Ivan in 2004, research efforts intensified. Collective scientific work culminated in a summarizing report released by the Institute of Meteorology in 2014. The 430 page document took shape over three years. Titled “Impacts of Climate Change and Measures for Adaptation in Cuba,” it contained articles by dozens of authors from 26 Cuban research institutes.

The report surveys manifestations of climate change in Cuba, presents likely climate scenarios “for 2050 and 2100,” evaluates effects on various socio-economic sectors, identifies knowledge gaps, and establishes priorities in protecting natural resources. It calls upon the government to develop new capacities and to apply remedial and protective measures in an integrated fashion.

Findings of the report found their way into Cuba’s contribution to the “Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.” Speaking of the report, Myrta Kaulard, a United Nations representative assigned to Cuba, observed that, “The team of Cuban experts was capable of achieving equilibrium between the scientific rigor imposed by an investigation of such magnitude and the necessity to explain the anticipated impacts in clear language.”

CITMA head Elba Rosa Pérez on April 25 explained that the “Life Task” endeavor was the fruit of research, experimentation, agricultural innovations, and previous experience with protecting natural systems. She identified three priorities: “preserving lives in the most vulnerable areas,” food security, and tourism.

The plan calls for “strategic actions,” among them: a ban on new home construction in vulnerable coastal areas, adaptation of infrastructure to coastal flooding, adaptation of land use to drought and rising sea water, and new farming methods.

Specific projects will include : crop diversification; development of heat-resistant plant varieties; protection of urban infrastructure and dwellings; rebuilding of urban sea fronts; relocation of homes; restoration of protective eco-systems such as beaches, coral reefs, and mangrove swamps; improved engineering and hydraulic infrastructure for coastal regions; enhanced water availability; and reforestation to protect soil and water sources.

All in all, Cuba’s preparations for meeting threats on the way from climate change have been persistent and comprehensive; ample human and material resources were available.

Fidel Castro’s remarks in 1992 in Brazil foreshadowed the tension that would come later between two opposed ways of dealing with climate change. People in wealthy nations, he said, enjoy “lifestyles and consumer habits that ruin the environment; … consumer societies are chiefly responsible for this appalling environmental destruction.”

Castro was referring to the flow of wealth from poor to rich nations and implying that acquisitiveness in those countries fosters expanded production. He continued: “They have saturated the atmosphere with gases, altering climatic conditions with the catastrophic effects we are already beginning to suffer.” Today we realize that expanded production requires unlimited energy sources, mostly in the form of fossil fuels. So carbon emissions increase, and global warming accentuates.

“Make human life more rational,” Castro insisted. “Adopt a just international economic order. Use science to achieve sustainable development without pollution. Pay the ecological debt. Eradicate hunger and not humanity.” In effect, he was saying that privilege in the industrialized countries rests on subjecting the world’s majority population to poverty and suffering.

The entire line of reasoning, from Castro in 1992 to what we know now, confirms the imperialist and exploitative nature of imperatives shaping the prevailing worldwide approach to climate change. It also demonstrates the link between climate change and capitalist modes of living and producing.

Socialist Cuba has long resisted big – power pretentions and no longer do private businesses and corporations exploit workers there. In responding to climate change, aggravated by capitalism, Cuba had the right tools available, the very ones that were useful as Cuba moved toward a socialist society. Cuba elaborated a plan, and did so collectively. Planners looked at realities, subjecting them to scientific study. In a socialist society plans developed under state auspices serve the good of all. They don’t allow for accumulation or profiteering.

Cuba Eliminates Substances that Deplete Ozone Layer

September 23, 2015

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By Alfredo Boada Mola

Experts in Cuba have undertaken the initialization of a new plant
based on Japanese technology to deal with the destruction of
substances that cause Ozone Layer depletion.

The fragile gaseous strata filters sunlight and impedes harmful solar
ultraviolet radiation reaching the surface of the Earth, thus
preserving human, plant and animal life.

Ozone Technical Office (OTOZ from the Spanish acronym) specialist,
Natacha Figueredo MSc, explained to the Havana Reporter that this
modern installation cosntructed in the Siguaney cement factory in the
province of Sancti Spiritus, commenced operations last April and is
presently in a functional stabilization phase.

During the first stage Ozone depletion substances (SAO from the
Spanish acronym) collected during the substitution of more than
2,500,000 refrigerators and almost 300,000 air conditioners in the
residential sector are to be destroyed.

The works form part of the “Energy Revolution” which fully eliminated
the use in Cuba of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) in domestic
refrigeration.

Hydro-fluorocarbons (HCFC) will later be destroyed in the plant which
will, over the coming months, be collected from refrigeration and
climatization units around the country.

Through this initiative, Cuba has attained the destruction this year
of some 258.4 kilos of SAO, a result which places the island within an
elite group of nations in the region with the capability to undertake
this complex process. Capacity will increase once the plant
stabilizes.

The installation is part of a demonstrative collection, recovery,
storage, transport and regeneration of substances detrimental to the
ozone layer initiative, that is the result of a strategy developed by
the OTC and the Montreal Multilateral Protocol Fund, via the United
Nations Development Program (PNUD).

The project seeks to ensure an environmentally safe outcome to SAO
destruction by averting emission into the earth’s atmosphere, thus
contributing to Cuba meeting Montreal Protocol Commitments to
gradually eradicate  and reduce SAO use.

Cuba is the first country to totally eliminate CFC consumption in
domestic refrigeration, a significant contribution to the
confrontation of climate change related issues that affect the planet,
because the gasses that impact on the Ozone Layer have a potent
greenhouse effect. According to OTOZ data, the actions undertaken on
the island have reduced CO2 atmospheric emissions by 4 million tons
per year.

OTOZ director and doctor in Sciences, Nelson Espinosa explained that
one of the most notable Cuban achievements of the past twenty years is
the total elimination of a group of substances that deplete the Ozone
layer, including the use of CFC’s in the manufacture of pharmaceutical
and industrial aerosols and methyl bromide in the fumigation of crops,
storage units and other industrial installations.

translated by Sean Clancy

Biogas Eases Women’s Household Burden in Rural Cuba

February 26, 2015

By Ivet González – IPS

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Rural doctor Arianna Toledo heats water on her biogas stove at her home in the town of Cuatro Esquinas in the western Cuban province of Matanzas. Credit: Courtesy of Randy Rodríguez Pagés/Diakonia-Swedish Ecumenical Action

LOS ARABOS, Cuba, Feb 20 2015 (IPS) – On the blue flame of her biogas stove, it takes half as long for rural doctor Arianna Toledo to heat bath water and cook dinner as it did four years ago, when she still used electric power or firewood.

The installation of a biodigester, which uses pig manure to produce biogas for use in cooking food, cut the expenses and the time spent on food preparation for Toledo’s five-member family, who live in the town of Cuatro Esquinas, Los Arabos municipality in the western Cuban province of Matanzas.

“The main savings is in time, because the gas stove cooks faster,” Toledo told Tierramérica. She and the rest of the women in the family shoulder the burden of the household tasks, as in the great majority of Cuban homes.

Another 20 small biogas plants operate in homes in this town located 150 km from Havana, and over 300 more in the entire province of Matanzas, installed with support from a project run by the Christian Centre for Reflection and Dialogue (CCRD-C), based in Cárdenas, a city in the same province.

The ecumenical institution seeks to improve living conditions in rural areas by fomenting ecological practices, which mitigate environmental damage, soil degradation and poor use of water.

Another key aim of the biodigester project is also to ease the work burden and household expenses of rural women.

“Our monthly power bill has been reduced, and we spend less on cooking gas cylinders, while at the same time we’re protecting the environment by using a renewable natural resource,” Toledo said.

In Cuba, 69 percent of families depend on electricity for cooking.

Toledo’s husband, Carlos Alberto Tamayo, explained to Tierramérica that using the biodigester, the four pigs they raise for family consumption guarantee the fuel needed for their home.

“And the organic material left over is used as natural fertiliser for our garden, where we grow fruit and vegetables,” said Tamayo, an Episcopal pastor in Cuatro Esquinas, which has a population of just over 2,300.

He said the biodigester prevents bad smells and the spread of disease vectors, while the gas is safer because it is non-toxic and there is a lower risk of accidents or explosions.

With the support of international development funds from several countries, for 15 years the CCRD-C has been promoting household use of these systems, reforestation and renewable energies, which are a priority for this Caribbean island nation, where only 4.3 percent of the energy consumed comes from clean sources.

The biodigesters, which are homemade in this case, will mushroom throughout Cuba over the next five years.

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The organic fertiliser produced by this biodigester effluent tank is used on a family garden in Los Arabos in the Cuban province of Matanzas. Credit: Courtesy of Randy Rodríguez Pagés/Diakonia-Swedish Ecumenical Action

The Swine Research Institute’s Biogas Promotion and Development Centre is designing a national plan to promote the use of biodigesters in state companies and agricultural cooperatives.

In 2014, the Centre reported that there were 1,000 biodigesters in these two sectors, which benefited 4,000 people, in the case of the companies, and 8,000 people, in the case of the farming cooperatives.

The plan projects the construction of some 1,000 biodigesters a year by 2020, through nine projects implemented by the Agriculture Ministry and the non-governmental National Association of Small Farmers, which will receive financing from the United Nations Small Grants Programme.

According to Rita María García, director of the CCRD-C, monitoring of the project has shown that replacing the use of firewood, kerosene and petroleum-based products with biogas makes household work more humane.

Women gain in safety and time – important in a country where unpaid domestic work absorbs 71 percent of the working hours of women, according to the only Time Use Survey published until now, carried out in 2002 by the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI).

The study found that for every 100 hours of work by men, women worked 120, many of them multitasking – cooking, cleaning, washing and caring for children.

“In general, women manage the household budget, which becomes a burden,” said García. “That’s why they are thankful for the biodigesters, and many of them have been motivated to raise pigs and get involved in farming as a result.”

The methodology followed by the CCRD-C projects first involves training for the beneficiaries in construction and maintenance of the biodigesters, and in ecological farming techniques using organic fertiliser, said Juan Carlos Rodríguez, the organisation’s general coordinator.

The CCRD-C also promotes reforestation by small farmers and the use of windmills, to reduce the use of electricity in a country that imports 53 percent of the fuel it consumes.

Related IPS Articles
Cuba’s Sugar Industry to Use Bagasse for Bioenergy
Cuba on the Road to Clean Energy Development
Cuba’s Fragile Power Grid Needs Renewable Energy
Brazilian Hydroelectricity Giant Promotes Biogas
EL SALVADOR: Biogas – Killing Two Birds with One Stone

An additional benefit of the biodigesters is that they offer an alternative for the disposal of pig manure, which contaminates the environment.

In 2013 there were 16.7 million pigs in Cuba, 65 percent of which were in private hands in this highly-centralised, socialist economy.

Because pork is the most widely consumed meat in Cuba, and many private farmers and families raise pigs, the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment are fomenting the installation of biodigesters, to help boost production.

The authorities require those who raise pigs to guarantee adequate disposal of their waste.

Biogas is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide produced by the bacterial decomposition of organic wastes. It can be used for cooking food, lighting, refrigeration and power generation.

Biodigesters help reduce soil and groundwater pollution, and curb the cutting of trees for firewood.

Cuba introduced their use in the 1980s, with U.N. support. But they began to take off a decade later, thanks to the National Biogas Movement.

Studies reported by the local press say the annual national potential for biogas production is over 400 million cubic metres, which would generate 700 gigawatt-hours per year.

That would reduce the release of carbon dioxide by more than three million tons, and would reduce oil imports by 190,000 tons a year.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.


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