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dec10 1b

COP 16, Cancun, Mexico 2010: Focusing on Forests

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The world’s forests are in trouble. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 130,000 km² of the world's forests are lost due to deforestation each year. Conversion to agricultural land, unsustainable harvesting of timber, unsound land management practices, and creation of human settlements account the most for loss of forested areas. The World Bank estimates that forests provide habitats to about two-thirds of all species on earth, and that deforestation of closed tropical rainforests could account for biodiversity loss of as many as 100 species a day. Millions of hectares of forests around the world are destroyed for profit annually, and this in turn is having a catastrophic effect on the world’s climate.

Forests are a vital part of global sustainable development. More than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, according to the World Bank, and the forest product industry is a source of economic growth and employment. Global forest products are traded internationally in the order of $270 billion.


Deforestation accounts for up to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. FAO data estimates that the world's forests and forest soil store more than one trillion tons of carbon – twice the amount found in the atmosphere. Comparisons of satellite images of the planet from 1990 and 2010 show a shocking decrease in forest-covered land globally.

But there is hope. The 16th edition of Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 16) will be held in Cancun, Mexico, from 19 November to 10 December 2010 – and considering that 2011 has been dubbed the International Year of Forests (or Forests 2011) by the United Nations, talks on deforestation and the preservation of rainforests may prove to be successful. Additionally, the fourth annual Forest Day is on December the 5th, and therefore runs concurrently with the COP 16 conference.

Forests 2011 provides an excellent platform to increase awareness of the connections between healthy forests, ecosytems, people and economies. Governments, regional and international organizations and civil society organizations are expected to create national committees and designate focal points in their respective countries to facilitate organization of activities in support of the International Year of Forests. Likewise, Forest Day 4 will essentially serve as a bridge between the 2010 Year of Biodiversity and 2011 Year of Forests.


Following the disappointing COP15 summit in Copenhagen last year, governments and corporations from around the world will be no doubt be treating the upcoming COP16 Summit in Cancun with kid gloves in anticipation of another frustrating outcome. However, the less-publicised forest talks at COP 15 were the most successful of the entire event, and these talks proved to be a solid foundation for the Oslo Climate and Forest Conference held in Norway in May 2010.

Given the location of the COP 16 conference, key issues for Amazonian and Central American foresters and forest-dwellers, such as land rights and tenure, as well as forest ownership, will feature prominently in discussions.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is composed of two general categories of participants: the State Parties and the observers. The observers are divided into Intergovernmental Organizations and Nongovernmental Organizations, who must register and accredit themselves before the Convention's Secretariat in order to participate in the Conferences. Only the representatives of the registered organizations will be allowed to attend the sessions of the different bodies of the Convention, as observers. The conference will be held at the Palace Hotel and the Cancunmesse, a new international conference and exhibition center in Cancun.


dec10 2b


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Global warming is one of the most important issues facing humanity in the twenty-first century. The steps we take now to address this looming environmental catastrophe will determine the kind of world future generations will face.

However, it is strongly felt that in the last year, governments have failed to meet the challenges of the climate crisis and with the unfinished business that remains from COP15, the possibility for a robust debate at COP16 in Cancun is greatly diminished. In fact it has been said that success at COP 16 will likely be defined as agreement on how to negotiate, leaving the substance of any agreement for COP 17, to be held December of 2011 in South Africa.

So while often beleaguered governments try to please many masters and end up pleasing none of them very much, who can we turn to in this time of crisis. Well, there is one reassuring thought: sometimes the business market does things that governments can’t or won’t do.

While governments have been slow to respond, a number of entrepreneurs has seen the opportunities in this crisis and has rushed to exploit them, in the process creating many new green technological innovations.

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to these entrepreneurs, most of whom, by the way, are struggling small business people often forced to play on a field that’s uneven. But thanks to their perseverance, many believe we now have in our possession some or all the technology we need to combat the threat of global warming.

There appears to be evidence to back up this claim. Energy guru Scott Sklar, who was for fifteen years Executive Director of the Solar Energy Industries Association, has collected 23 studies that, he argues, “show how commercially-available energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies can meet all of the world’s energy growth without fossil fuels (petroleum and coal) and nuclear energy."

Sklar’s collection, for example, encompasses options for commercial building rooftops, probably the most wasted real estate in the country. They soak up huge amounts of solar energy that could be used to generate electricity. A report of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory asserts that 22% of all buildings could be zero-energy consumers using today’s solar roof technology.

All 23 studies are recent. Most emanate from Federal agencies and national laboratories. According to Sklar, an aggregation of the most conservative estimates of these studies adds up to more than 100% of U.S. future energy needs.

More powerful evidence along these lines is available from the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, which regularly briefs US Congress on the availability of new low-carbon, efficient energy technologies. And the annual Congressional Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Expo showcases scores of these technologies.


This cornucopia of clean technology benefits the nation, the planet, and humanity in general. It’s been quietly produced while all the ideological bother and political wrangling around the UN conferences garner the headlines – as if the only game worth playing is the government game.

What this boils down to is a willingness to take a risk.

Entrepreneurs can afford to take risks that politicians cannot. Too many voters crave reassurance that cheap and abundant energy will be available always and forever, and too many politicians are ready, willing and able to provide it (i.e. drilling for oil and burning coal).

It’s interesting to note that, as Presidential candidates, neither Al Gore in 2000 nor John Kerry in 2004 dared to mention global warming – even though the two of them were then among the best informed and most concerned individuals on the planet.

We should be grateful that entrepreneurs are there to provide an alternative leadership when our political system fails us. Now the job is to deploy all this new technology throughout the world. Government can and should play a role in this deployment, if only to level the playing field. But whether government does its job or fails to, we trust that entrepreneurs will find a way to complete the green revolution they’ve begun.

Business for the Environment (B4E) is the world’s leading global summit focused on business and the environment, and brings together CEOs and senior executives with leaders from government, NGOs and international organizations to share best environment practices, discuss green investments, and promote clean technologies and sustainable growth strategies.


dec10 3b

HIV&Me Family
Support Program

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Experts agree that honest communication, shared thoughts, listening to verbal and non verbal messages, interest and attentiveness, empathy, clear messaging and a safe space in which to converse are necessary communication skills for the health and well-being of the family unit. The newly launched HIV&Me Family Support Program (FSP) addresses these issues in the context of the HIV&AIDS affected family.

However, in South Africa the reality is that open and honest dialogue may often mean parents disclosing to their children that they are HIV positive, imparting this shocking news without fully understanding what HIV&AIDS really is.

Coupled with the shame felt, the questions ‘When will I die?’ ‘How can I support my family?’ ‘Can my child handle the news?’ ‘Is my child able to keep the secret?’ ‘Will my child be bullied at school … become depressed …despise me?’ often inhibit disclosure.

And what of the child that is HIV+? Is she able to disclose her status to her family and gain support and empathy. Dealing with the emotional side of HIV&AIDS within the family environment, as well as enabling disclosure between parents and children is essential for positive living. As the statistics highlight, in South Africa HIV&AIDS affects all those within the household as well as the extended family.

  • Almost one-in-three women (often mothers) aged 25-29, and over a quarter of men (often fathers) aged 30-34 are living with HIV.
    (Human Sciences Research Council (2009), ‘South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey, 2008: A Turning Tide Among Teenagers?)’
  • In 2007 there were an estimated 280,000 under-15s living with HIV, a figure almost doubled since 2001.
    (UNAIDS (2008), ‘2008 Report on the Global AIDS epidemic’)
  • There are an estimated 1.5 and 3 million children who have lost one or both parents, many having to live with grandparents or cousins.
    (UNGASS (2010, 31st March) 'South Africa UNGASS Country Progress Report')
  • Up to one third of all attempted suicides committed to hospitals are children and adolescents driven to this condition by feelings of anger and aggression. Self -destruction amongst youth can be directed to suicide or result in high-risk behaviour such as substance abuse, unprotected sex or generally dangerous activities.
    (The Durban Parasuicide Study (Schlebusch, 2005:8).)

In response, Regency has extended its reach within the community by introducing the Family Support Program (FSP) to parents and guardians of learners in the participant HIV&Me schools.

FSP builds on the school-based intervention by enabling parents to develop better communication channels with their children and thereby facilitating the disclosure of HIV status, be it parent to child OR child to parent.

FSP enables more effective family communication by providing parents with the skills to create a safe, open, trusting and supportive environment within their households.

The program will contextualise the schools-based intervention by addressing the impact of cultural barriers, the fear of stigma towards both the parent and the child, the nature of trust, and the lack of appropriate knowledge on HIV&AIDS prevention and management.

Feedback from the pilot workshop, partnered by Shell, suggests that Regency is on the right track.

Mr Ngubane Principal of Edendale Tech (PMB) comments “a workshop of this nature is long overdue. In this region people are getting infected every day as a result of not proper teaching and information. The workshop was successful in that it got into the veins of the parents; it inspired parents to reach their friends and family”.

Willie Mafuse HIV&Me program facilitator adds “the questions that the women asked gave me insight into their plight, their fear of telling their young children that they are HIV+ and not preparing the family for the future. They are not confident that the ARVs work as they do not understand how they work”.

As up to an estimated 90 percent of care is provided in the home by untrained family and associates, and up to 80 percent of AIDS related deaths occur in the home (Uys, L (2003), ‘Guest editorial: longer-term aid to combat AIDS’, Journal of Advanced Nursing 44(1), as referred to in Ogden, J. et al (2006), ‘Expanding the care continuum: Bringing carers into focus’, Health Policy and Planning 21(5)), FSP aims to build on its current agenda by providing additional workshops that provide family members and friends with the emotional and medical skill set to better provide the home based care for people with HIV&AIDS.