UNEP set to inspire action on reducing emissions

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The UN Environment Program said it will be releasing 30 case studies in the run-up to the UN climate convention in Mexico to prove that solutions to combat climate change are available, accessible and replicable. In a statement received here on Wednesday, the UN agency said current commitments and pledges under the Copenhagen Accord covering emissions up to 2020 provide a good platform for global action, but the level of current ambition is widely viewed as insufficient to meet the 2 degree warming limit.

"Across the globe, community-based programs and entrepreneurial endeavor are challenging the status-quo through innovation and creativity," said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director. "Importantly, they are delivering multiple benefits from access to energy, public health improvements and reduced environmental impacts to driving a transition to low carbon, greener growth. The challenge now is to accelerate and scale-up these world-wide transitions."

The UNEP "30 Ways in 30 Days" initiative was announced at a special Climate Neutral Network (CN Net) breakfast at the Business for the Environment Summit (B4E) in Mexico City late Tuesday. The B4E Summit, which is co-hosted by the UNEP, The Global Compact, WWF, and Global Initiatives, is the world's premier international conference for dialogue and business-driven action for the environment.

Latest members of CN Net include Saitama Prefecture in Japan, which is part of the Greater Tokyo Area hosting a population of more than 7 million, and Corporation Solar Alliance in Ukraine, which is developing next-generation technologies for energy conservation and the saving of resources.

The first case study from the "30 Ways in 30 Days" initiative is "Solar Loans for Solar Homes." More than 60 percent of Indian households have no access to reliable electricity supplies and depend on kerosene for light and on burning dung and wood for heat.

In an example of small-scale enterprise and entrepreneurship that expanded rapidly, UNEP's Indian Solar Loan Program worked with two of India's largest banking groups in 2003 to provide low- interest loans for household photovoltaic systems.

The program provided technical support and training, as well as an interest rate buy-down that reimbursed banks for the difference between their normal lending rates and the reduced rate that borrowers paid.

While banks did not profit directly from these subsidies, they were keen to develop a new market for rural financing. Almost 20,000 solar home systems were financed between 2003 and 2007. Towards the end of the project, subsidies were gradually reduced to a free market rate, by which time other banks had begun lending on commercial terms. The Solar Loan Program accelerated market penetration of solar lights in the Indian countryside and inspired several similar initiatives in India and elsewhere.

In 2008, the program won the Globe Energy Award for sustainability and in 2009 it was one of only two field projects within the UN system to receive the Secretary General's UN21 Award awarded for innovation. The Indian Solar Loan scheme has influenced national policy, with the Government of India sidelining its capital subsidy approach to supporting solar power in favor of interest subsidies.

According to UNEP, costs of 1.5 million U. S. dollars in program support and 6.1 million dollars in loans from the banking partners have been more than offset by household savings on kerosene and other traditional energy sources. "Solar lights are a long cherished dream of rural folk who often have no power, or power supplies that are at best irregular. They are one product that can meet aspirations of people living below the poverty line. It is a good business opportunity for the Bank," said P G Ramesh, Chairman, Pragathi Grameen Bank, Bellary, Karnataka, India. Many of the best opportunities for climate mitigation are household-scale technologies such as solar, biogas and high efficiency appliances. Consumer and micro-lending approaches can be replicated elsewhere and their scale adjusted according to need.

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