Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Water: Tough trade-offs and a call for economic management

The management of water resources is an economic problem. The Water Resources Group 2030, consisting of the International Finance Corportion, McKinsey & Co and an extended business consortium has, in a new report, drawn attention to water scarcity and the need for economic management and further investment in this valuable resource.

A key argument is that current supply will be inadequate, but that meeting increasing demands is possible at a reasonable cost:

After careful quantitative analysis of the problem, this report provides some answers on the

path to water resource security. It first quantifies the situation and shows that in many regions, current supply will be inadequate to meet the water requirements. However, as a central thesis, it also shows that meeting all competing demands for water is in fact possible at reasonable cost. This outcome will not emerge naturally from existing market dynamics, but will require a concerted effort by all stakeholders, the willingness to adopt a total resource view where water is seen as a key, cross-sectoral input for development and growth, a mix of technical approaches, and the courage to undertake and fund water sector reforms.

South Africa was one of the case studies . The report indicates that South Africa will have to resolve tough trade-offs between agriculture, key industrial activities such as mining and power generation, and large and growing urban centers.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A winning conclusion

Partha Dasgupta reviewed the interface between ecological economics and economic development in a new working paper "The Place of Nature in Economic Development". His conclusion wins the Sustainable Options Winning Conclusions Award for this week*:

Development policies that ignore our reliance on ecological capital are seriously harmful - they

don't pass the mildest test for equity among contemporaries, nor among people separated by

time and uncertain contingencies.

* A completely random award to all working on interesting issues spanning from Africa's development challenges to the beauty of sea horses in the Knysna lagoon. In the spirit of the Mo Ibrahim prize it may or may not be awarded.

Southern African Regional Climate Change Programme

Africa is expected to bear the brunt of climatic changes (see earlier blogpost The IPCC on Climate Change in Africa). Now there is a new regional Southern African programme to deal with the effects of climate change on the largely poor and malnourished populations in this often forgotten part of the world. With so much anxiety on the success of the Copenhagen talks, this rings at least as a step in the right direction.

From the RCCP website:

"It is in the interests of both the developed and the developing world—North and South—that the impact of climate change on poverty be contained. The Regional Climate Change Programme (RCCP) has been established to help the whole region adapt to climate change. Extending its reach beyond political borders, the RCCP is furthermore committed to helping level the playing field with regard to equitable access to climate funding.

Future life in Southern Africa will depend on the ability of both the environment and the population to adapt to warmer temperatures and greater unpredictability in weather patterns. This variability is already having a negative impact on progress toward the Millennium Development Goals of water, agriculture, health and energy."

Read full story and much more about the programme here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Africa's Infrastructure Challenge

The IBRD and World Bank released a report entitled "Africa's Infrastructure: A Time for Transformation", estimating that the cost of addressing Africa's infrastructure challenge is $93bn per year, one third of which is for maintenance alone.

Other main findings are that infrastructure has been responsible for more than half of Africa's recent improved growth performance, that infrastructure networks are lagging behind other developing countries, that infrastructure services in Africa are twice as expensive as elsewhere, and that infrastructure in Africa is mainly financed by central governments.

For more findings and well-researched discussions read the full report here.

H/T: Polity
Image: WikiMedia

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On access to electricity and higher education in SA

A beautiful graph from GapMinder showing the relationship between access to electricity and higher education for South African municipalities.

A few observations:
- Access to electricity increases markedly over this time period
- The percentage of with higher education increases up to 2000, and started decreasing since then, but with some notable exceptions
- The curve is pulled back towards the left-hand corner as time progresses; improved access to electricity without corresponding gains in higher education.
- A notable rebound effect from 2001 onwards - access to electricity still improved in most cases, but percentage of population with higher education starts to fall behind

This signals pressure on higher education, especially from 2001 onwards, that is not directly related to the lack of access to electricity. This failure is not uniform throughout the country though.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Increasing income, increasing waste

The generation of waste does not (yet) seem to follow the richer is greener, or Environmental Kuznets Curve theory. Even in the relatively rich EU25, rising incomes still mean rising amounts of municipal waste in landfills, but there is some good news, according to a new paper "Municipal Waste Kuznets Curves: Evidence of Socio-Economic Drivers and Policy Effectiveness from the EU": "elasticity to income drivers appears lower than in the past".

The full abstract:

Abstract Waste generation and waste disposal are becoming increasingly prominent in the environmental arena, from a policy perspective and in the context of delinking analysis. In general, waste generation is still increasing proportionally with income, and economic and environmental costs associated to landfilling are also increasing. This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of waste generation, incineration and landfill dynamics based on panel data for the EU25, to assess the effects of different drivers (economic, structural, policy) and the eventual differences between Western and Eastern EU countries. We show that for waste generation there is still no Waste Kuznets Curve (WKC) trend, although elasticity to income drivers appears lower than in the past. Landfill and other policy effects do not seem to provide backward incentives for waste prevention, and in terms of landfill and incineration, as expected, they are respectively decreasing and increasing, with policy acting as a strong driver. Eastern countries appear to be performing generally quite well, thus benefiting from EU membership and related policies in terms of environmental performance. We can conclude that although absolute delinking is far from being achieved for waste generation, there are some first positive signs of an increasing relative delinking for waste generation and robust landfill diversion, and varying evidence of a significant role of the EU waste policies implemented in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Our evidence suggests that if while landfill diversion is currently associated to a delinking partly explained by EU policies, waste prevention must be the next objective of waste regulation efforts.