Newsletter 4/2014

Berlin/Bonn December 2014


Dear readers,

The Climate Conference in Lima ended this past weekend with a first policy paper for a world climate treaty. As a former negotiator, I am struck by just how far removed we are from the bindingness of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. When today, 15 years later, all of the countries should simply decide themselves how much and how fast they want to reduce their CO2 emissions, it shows me how little weight the countries give climate warming.

However, the Global Climate Risk Index 2013 published in Lima by Germanwatch also shows that climate change is already the bitter reality for some countries today: according to the index, the Philippines is the country that has been most damaged by extreme weather. Simultaneous with the climate conference, a typhoon swept the country once again, whose residents had hardly had time beforehand to repair the damage from the tropical cyclone Haiyan one year ago.

We are also using your climate protection contributions in the Philippines. You can read more about this in the current newsletter in addition to a travel report from India from our staff member Robert Müller and an interview about the federal government’s climate action program with Petra Thomas, managing director of forum anders reisen e.V.

Thank you very much for your support,

Dietrich Brockhagen

Managing Director of atmosfair

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"We are all safe"

Good news from the atmosfair biogas project in the Philippines

biogas-project Philippines

biogas-project Philippines

Manila, December 2014: After the devastating typhoon in November 2013, the Philippines was met once again with a tropical cyclone. Fears of the storm’s impact were large since the consequences from Haiyan were still not completely dealt with and the images of the destruction were still fresh.

While last year around 10,000 people lost their lives and over four million people lost their houses and livelihoods, the atmosfair project with the small biogas units had better luck this year. After the typhoon passed through the region, the atmosfair team in Berlin received the good news from Maria Banico, the local project partner: “We are all safe. The people have started to unpack their belongings again and their rooftop repairs are smaller.”

This also means that none of the households were hit hard or lost their livelihoods. Of course, there are devastating floods due to the strong rain, and it will be a while until the people can return to daily life. The most important thing, however, is that the pigsties and the biogas units are still intact. In addition, the sow that belongs to our project partner Virginia gave birth to 14 piglets during the storm. This means that there is a new source of income for Virginia and her family as well as “food” for their biogas unit.

Some good news from Berlin accompanied the good news from the Philippines. atmosfair was recently able to release funds for new biogas units. Before Christmas, another 25 Filipino households will be able to receive a biogas unit.

"A visitor's tax for the travel industry"

atmosfair-Interview with Petra Thomas of forum anders reisen e.V.

Petra Thomas manager of forum anders reisen e.V.

Petra Thomas manager of forum anders reisen e.V.

Offsetting is only the second-best option, but it should be as self-evident as a visitor’s tax, said Petra Thomas, managing director of forum anders reisen e.V. in an interview with atmosfair. With the climate action plan that it approved last week, the federal government is headed in the right direction – though much more must be done in order to balance the damage caused by air traffic.

On December 3rd, the federal government adopted its climate action plan: by 2020, at least 40 percent fewer greenhouse gases should be emitted than in 1990. Will the German travel industry also achieve a 40 percent decrease by 2020?

Definitely not. Until now, we have lacked a survey of all areas on which and how many emissions are really created by German citizens’ travel alone. Surely, air travel makes up a large part of emissions from tourist travel. However, all other emissions, such as those from using resources onsite or overnight stays, have so far hardly been included. Because there is no data on this, it is also not possible to formulate goals. Moreover, the market is clearly growing.

Which points in the program do you consider to be especially important?

The most important point is about air traffic, which is only included in the program within the scope of improving efficiency. This is clearly too little. Although it is surely possible to improve the efficiency of the machinery through new technologies, it still does not help enough when the number of flights is increasing at the same time. We must think much more about how flight behaviour can be changed and whether the ticket tax on flights should flow directly towards climate protection instead of to state coffers. We must try to offset the damage caused by air traffic and price in the costs, for example by way of effective emissions trading or offsetting projects.

There are a whole host of measures on transport  – were the right incentives set here?

These measures are not sufficient by far. Of course it is sensible to support electric mobility, sharing options, and public transportation. What is lacking, however, is rethinking the energy industry because an electric car that is fuelled using electricity from coal also won’t help us. I am rather disappointed that renewable energies will not make up a larger proportion of the energy mix. But there is also nothing about an exit strategy from coal in the program.

Vacation in Thailand, skiing in Switzerland, and shopping in London: what could the government do in order to address the high-emissions lifestyle many Germans also have where they vacation?

The most important task is really to inform consumers, whom we cannot and do not want to forbid from flying. We have to get them onboard through their own motivation for travelling. There are studies about what a traveller seeks when booking a holiday: recovery, relaxation, wellbeing, or even freedom are all important holiday motifs. Instead, we have to show that these basic needs are better met through a sustainable form of travelling instead of by long-distance journeys and mass tourism. We often don’t think about how stressful it is to first of all travel 10 hours by plane and then arrive in another time zone and in another climate.

So does climate protection already begin at travel agencies?

It actually has to start much earlier. In media, publicity, and education it should be more strongly emphasised that mobility should not be taken for granted, but rather must be balanced well.

What role does emissions offsetting play for climate protection?

Offsetting is only the second-best option. However, when I really cannot or do not want to avoid a trip, it is a good tool. On the one hand, one can offset the emissions that are created; on the other hand, it’s about supporting sustainable projects in countries that are affected by climate change. Unfortunately, it is the case that the countries in the world that produce the fewest emissions have to suffer the most from the consequences. The projects support the climate, but above all the local inhabitants. I wish that offsetting were a matter of course and as accepted as a visitor’s tax in Germany. In Europe, nobody complains that this surcharge is levied per day at sea resorts or beaches in order to protect nature and maintain public areas. Just like a visitor’s tax, offsetting should be a natural part of planning a trip.

The UN Climate Change Conferences of the last years have hardly achieved any successes. Do you think that the German tourism industry is obliged to take a leading role?

A binding mechanism would be to stop supporting air traffic. The expenditures and price are incommensurate when it comes to flying as compared with trips by car or train. Politics can straighten this out again if it wants to. In this, emissions trading is a first step that, however, must be enforced EU- or worldwide. The German market actually has a high level of awareness for social and ecological issues. After all, around 30 percent of travellers take an interest in environmental issues if the surveys are to be believed; however, they unfortunately do not act on it yet. This would be a good place to start.

Onsite report from Robert Müller in India

Charcoal stoves of Indian construction support Indian companies

Charcoal from atmosfair-project on the way to the market

Charcoal from atmosfair-project on the way to the market

Bengal, November 2014: In the Ganges Delta, already over 6,000 households use innovative charcoal stoves financed by atmosfair. In order to monitor the project, atmosfair staff member Robert Müller visited the project together with TÜV at the end of October. The auditor Chetan Sharma from New Delhi was impressed: for thousands of households, cooking while producing charcoal at the same time has meanwhile become commonplace. For this, the users first fill the so-called pyrolysis stove that is produced by Indian project partner Servals Automation with wood. They then light it from above. In a pyrolysis process that is low in oxygen, wood gas is produced that rises and burns cleanly directly under the pot. At the same time, the wood turns into charcoal and can be sold by the users.

In this way, the climate benefits are twofold: the stoves require less wood than the open hearths did previously, and the charcoal no longer requires huge amounts of wood in order to be produced.

Now that already over 6,000 households use the innovative pyrolysis stoves, the next formal expansion stage lies ahead: since the project is growing further, the requirements for project documentation and verifying the reductions in CO2 according to UN regulations are increasing. The bigger project must then be audited and approved again by a UN auditor onsite, as is already the case with similar atmosfair projects in Rwanda and Nigeria.

With the size of the projects, project partner Moulindu Banerjee’s tasks have also been increasing. In the future, the end-user price should rise in order to reduce atmosfair’s financial support little by little. When the sale of the stoves can occur completely on its own, atmosfair can use the freed up funds for other projects.

The charcoal logistics chain is also becoming more demanding because nowadays, Moulindu collects 150 tonnes of charcoal from the 6,000 households every month – that is six large trucks full of charcoal. Soon these will not be packaged in Calcutta, but rather sold locally. For this, local customers such as goldsmiths or tobacco dryers have already been found. In this way, collection and resale can be gradually transferred to the project staff, who can then build up local trade as independent small entrepreneurs. Long-term project success will be characterised by the fact that support from the outside has become superfluous – of this we are convinced.