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Solar Sister is the only organization in the world formed with the exclusive mission to build an Africa-wide network of women clean energy entrepreneurs. As the primary consumers of household energy, women are critical for successful adaptation of clean energy solutions. Solar Sister was founded on the belief that investing in women is a prerequisite for large-scale adoption of clean energy technologies at a grassroots level. It is this gender inclusive system approach, combined with a women led enterprise-based model to bring sustainable livelihood opportunities to address energy poverty, that makes the Solar Sister model unique. (from
The release earlier this month of the United Nations' 2013 World Economic and Social Survey '(WESS), Sustainable Development Challenges' presents an apocalyptic image of post-2050 urban landscape, with predictions that the population of urban slums could swell to near 7 billion. The report suggests current methodologies and practices are not  “sufficient to achieve sustainable development beyond 2015”; and addresses challenges in food security, energy transformation and sustainable cities as key areas in need of rapid and intense study.

Yet hope does spring eternal!

The UNFCCC Momentum for Change Initiative last week published its 2012 report, promoting nine "lighthouse activities" whose success in tackling challenges in urban environments evidence victories in mitigation and adaptation, social and economic justice, and also provide frameworks which are readily replicable for scaling-up both nationally and internationally.

MFC 2012 talks to vital urban concerns relative to housing, education and health; sanitation and gender equity; energy and economic development -- problems which, when viewed through a "climate change lens" are severely magnified.

The nine "lighthouse activities" are all public/private enterprises and include "sustainable public transport in China, India and Sri Lanka; mitigation projects in Peru, Nepal and Uganda; and strategies for building climate resilience in Kenya, Senegal and Namibia."

Adaptation to Coastal Erosion in Vulnerable Areas in Senegal (or English)

Senegal is one of the first nations to receive funds from the Adaptation Fund for its project Adaptation to Coastal Erosion in Vulnerable Areas. The project addresses the impact of rising sea levels on three densely populated locales just outside Dakar - Rufisque, Saly and Joal – where the effects of rising water and salinization have already negatively effected the national economy. (The submergence of the Saly beach over just four years, for example, has been devastating for the tourism industry.)

The local community is involved in every stage of project development – prioritization, implementation, and execution.  Green Senegal and Dynamiques-Femmes are two local NGOs whose involvement is integral to the long term success of the project.

The activity has received considerable attention from both developing and developed countries, and from different types of stakeholder groups. It is already being replicated in other countries, thereby leading to its scaling up world-wide. Some of the first projects to replicate the modality include an agriculture sector project in Uruguay, a multi-sector programme in Jamaica and the development of a coastal development project in Benin. The implementing agency of the project has been repeatedly invited to present their experience in adaptation related workshops in neighbouring countries, as well as farther afield, such as Ethiopia, South Africa, Thailand and Philippines.
Started in January 2011, the activity aims to reduce exposure to climate change impacts on the coast by protecting houses and coastal infrastructure - such as fishing docks, fish processing plants and even tourism - that are threatened by erosion and salt-water intrusion. Some measures the activity introduced include anti-salt dikes to mitigate salination of agricultural lands and sea defences to prevent coastal erosion. (from

Guangzhou BRT:  the first ‘metro replacement’ level BRT system outside South America.

In China, the Guangzhou bus rapid transit (BRT) opened in 2011 and now transports 850,000 people each day, making it the most widely used BRT system in Asia.   It is currently second worldwide to Bogota's Transmilenio BRT.

In terms of mitigation and adaptation, the system is projected to decease CO2 emissions over ten years by 84,000  tonnes of CO2 emissions annually and to reduce particulate matter emissions by 14 tonnes each year.

Social and environmental benefits

The immediate neighborhoods surrounding the BRT include “urban villages” where many low-income immigrants live and the BRT system improves their mobility.

Improvements in sustainable transport improve economic outcomes for the city overall by lowering the cost of travel, giving improved access to jobs, and decreasing congestion for economic activity.

Potential for scaling-up and replication

Internationally: The success of the Guangzhou BRT system is spurring BRT planning and design all over Asia and beyond. Study tours from multiple nations and multi-lateral institutions like the Asian Development Bank are ongoing in Guangzhou to learn from this design.  As of October 2012, ITDP has hosted more than 65 visiting delegations to the Guangzhou BRT system and related improvements to pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and public space projects such as greenways.

Solar Sister: A women powered clean energy revolution

Each solar lantern in its 10-year lifetime will replace the use of about 600 litres of kerosene, thereby mitigating about 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). The sale of solar products by Solar Sister entrepreneurs so far will help mitigate 9,564 tonnes of CO2 emissions. At the proposed scaling up, Solar Sister entrepreneurs are projected to mitigate more than 10 million tonnes of CO2 emissions over ten years, while replacing the usage of 660 million liters of kerosene.  (from
What began four years ago with the training of ten women in Uganda is currently a network of 270 Solar Sister entrepreneurs brining solar energy to 31,000 Africans in Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda.
"Women are the ones who walk miles to cut the wood; women are the ones who go to markets to buy kerosene -- so if we wanted to make the change that someone would say 'well, I'll quit the kerosene, I'm going to buy a solar lamp and use cleaner technology,' then it had to be the person who was in charge of making that decision and that's the women." Solar Sister founder Katherine Lucey for CNN
One kerosene lantern can do a lot of environmental damage over ten years of use. According to the UNFCCC study, along with projected deep cuts in CO2 emissions over ten years, solar lanterns also alleviate black soot which also contributes to climate change.

The Solar Sisters network trains women to participate in a "market based program", providing them with education, working capital and ongoing marketing support so they can work on their own business distributing solar power to rural locations. A 501c operation, the company reinvests profits into expanding the number of female entrepreneurs.

Follow Solar Sister on Facebook and Twitter or visit the organization's home page to make a contribution.

Anticipating An Urban World

Currently, UNESCO reports, cities are expanding by some 60 million annually. Yet by the middle of the 21st century, urban populations in developing countries are expected to double, increasing from 2.5 billion in 2009 to almost 5.2 billion in 2050. Developed and industrialized countries are not expected to experience a significant increase in  population density, with population perhaps even declining or remaining static were it not for an expected significant shift in immigration patterns to urban environments.

Scrolling through 100 years to 2050 on UNICEF's Urban Interactive World Population Map is an alarming projections of global population trends coupled with the projected increase rise in urban areas. (The map is specific to those regions where the urban population exceeds 100,000.)

Here's a sampling of how urban populations are projected to grow between 2010 and 2050, depicting the numbers and the percentage of the nation based in cities.

China: 2010:  630M, 47%; 2050: 1,038M, 73%
Nigeria  2010: 79M, 50%; 2050: 218 Million, 75%
India, 2010: 368M, 30%; 2050: 875M, 54%
US: 2010: 255M, 72%; 2050: 365M, 90%
Indonesia:2010: 106M, 44%; 2050:  190M, 66%
Bangladesh: 2010: Less than 100M; 2050: 199M, 59%
Peru: 2010 22M 77%; 2050: 35M 88%
On a recent visit to Peru, World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim stressed the importance of connecting words like "social justice and poverty."

"The World Bank Group is working with partners right now on ... building cleaner cities; developing climate-smart agriculture; and investing in energy efficiency and sustainable energy sources," says Dr. Kim, who 15 years ago worked with Partners in Health in Carabayllo battling drug resistant tuberculosis.  "Moving ahead, we at the bank will be looking at everything we do through a climate lens."

The Momentum for Change initiative was launched in 2011 with the backing of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to escalate action on climate change by providing visibility to innovative and successful projects. View the other lighthouse activities.

"May all beings everywhere be happy and free. May the thoughts and actions of our lives contribute to that happiness and to that freedom for all."
Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu.

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