Mexico kicked off 2017 with a 20 percent spike in gasoline prices, driven in part by the phasing out of subsidies. Some consumers set fires at gas stations—a response that highlights the backlash countries can face as they stop subsidizing carbon-based fuels and start encouraging climate-friendly alternatives. Now the Mexican government and stock market are experimenting with a gentler tool for discouraging carbon emissions: cap-and-trade. Mexico, which in 2012 passed the developing world’s first climate law, is well placed to set an example for other developing economies looking to shrink their carbon footprints.
When the rains failed to come last year in central Isiolo County, Kenya, Mohamed Dahir figured he might lose 40% of his herd of 400 sheep and goats. Like several million other pastoralists in northern Kenya and across the border in Somalia and Ethiopia, Dahir and his herd live migrating between pastures.
Dahir did indeed lose some animals, but he received a payout from an emerging kind of livestock insurance: based on predictions of vegetation growth in the area and how many animals that might harm, his index-based livestock insurance policy gave him 50,000 Kenyan shillings (about £370) in cash before the drought and its consequences really settled in. He was able to buy enough hay from distant counties to save 95% of his herd.
Index-based livestock insurance gets its name from the ecological indices used to calculate it, such as rainfall and vegetation growth. It now covers over 15,000 Kenyans in both commercial and government-issued varieties. The Kenyan programmes, established by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), a CGIAR research centre in Nairobi, have paid out several times including a record US$2.2 million (£1.7 million) in early 2017.
But it took several tries and careful tuning to different communities across Kenya to create the livestock insurance policy. The insurance will probably require constant updating in the face of climate change and other shifts affecting its target population and the ecosystem in which they live.
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There’s open-source software, open-source pharma research, and open-source beer. Now, there are open-source seeds, too. Breeders from Göttingen University in Germany and Dottenfelderhof agricultural school in Bad Vilbel, Germany, have released tomato and wheat varieties under an open-source license. Their move follows similar schemes for sharing plant material in India and the United States, but is the first that provides legal protection for the open-source status of future descendants of plant varieties. Continue reading
Copenhagen’s public electric bikes are kind of a pain to get started: they are heavy and their coaster brake prevents riders from kicking the pedal around to a convenient starting place. The business side of the operation has also had a rough start, marked by delivery delays, bankruptcy, and restructuring. Once you do manage to push the bikes to a start, however, their 250-W electric motors kick in and they are a breeze to power around Copenhagen’s well-marked and protected bike lanes.
It may not have been electricity, but something has also boosted the Copenhagen bike-sharing program: Usage grew from just 169,000 rides in 2015 to 933,000 last year and the program, called Bycyklen, is on track for similar usage this year. That might be just enough to keep Bycyklen from falling over. Continue reading