by Celina Schelle
In light of the many meetings and presentations about what needs to be done, side events about ongoing initiatives and success stories were very refreshing and motivating! Yes, we are not only negotiating about an abstract future, there are quite some people engaged in creative problem solving bringing us ahead towards a more environmentally and socially just society.
During a side event on how Senegal is implementing its NDCs, I was very pleased to find out about the Nubian Vault, an association specialized in low cost eco-housing. Due to deforestation and population growth timber is a scarce resource and there is increasingly little available for construction. Additionally, Senegal wants 30% of its energies to be renewable by 2030. Restoring carbon stock through green housing demonstrates a major way to achieve this. The Nubian Vault houses are based on old traditional construction techniques using simple tools and skills which make it above all very affordable. The life cycle assessment of the buildings construction reveals very low carbon emissions, amongst others, due to their high energy efficiency.
One speaker working for the Association explained that they spent about 17 years on spreading the concept across the countries mainly through awareness raising as well as technical and entrepreneurial vocational training in villages. Even the topic gender has found a place in the project – according to one of the speakers mainly women are participating in these trainings. Until today they have constructed over 2000 houses and are making homes for people in over five countries, besides Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Benin. The Senegalese government has also recognized the potential of the Nubian Vault to foster sustainable development and is densifying the market with subsidies. Meanwhile a partnership with the ministry of environment is well established.
While this is a wonderful example of how to reduce emissions, preserve the environment and decrease poverty without financial constraints stagnating progress, there are many other initiatives with great potential which do not yet have a clear picture of how to realize them without financial support. It is not that we do not have enough ideas, there are many creative people out there. Therefore, we need to make sure that subsidies and funds are going into the hands of those who can make a change. We need to stop losing ourselves in environmental politics and allocate resources to the people who are ready to go!