Greenwashing, as we know it, is the “deceptive use of green PR or green marketing in order to promote a misleading perception that a company’s policies or products are environmentally friendly”.  And I could not help but think that there was a bit of greenwashing going on in the newly opened Princess Nora bint Abdelrahman University (PNU) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Said to be the largest women’s university in the world, the campus has also launched several eco-friendly initiatives such as using solar energy for up to 18% of the power used for air-conditioning and the use of electric buggies. However, what I seemed to have taken with a pinch of salt, was the fact that it prides itself with the aim of being a car-free zone.

I could not help but question, what was the real motive of making  a women’s university in Saudi Arabia covering 8 million square feet a car-free zone? Was it merely a convenient excuse to abide by the country’s norms of not allowing women to drive (which has nothing to do Islam. Duh!)?

Whether a convenient excuse or noble environmental cause, the policy could nevertheless pose an inconvenience to not only women on campus, but also to the University’s budgets. So, ok great there’s a shuttle monorail but what are its operation hours – especially during those late nights of cramming for exams? Yay for electric buggies, but who drives them?  Given the fact that its highly unlikely that the fairer sex will be behind buggy wheels, this would perhaps create the need for male buggy drivers [Read: Foreign Labour… so much for Saudization policies] to meet the needs of a campus population of 50,000.

This economic rationale however still misses the point. Driving is almost universally a choice and provides a sense of empowerment, liberty and mobility for women.

I am not suggesting that adopting a  car-free system in the University is a bad idea and that we should go on emitting carbon, but rather the time and place chosen to implement the system deems greater analysis (or dare I say scrutiny) in light of broader issues. Just saying.

To Saudi sisters reading this, I have two messages:-

1) This post is just my modest two cents worth, and I look forward to any thoughts you may have on it.

2) For those choosing to make a stand on June 17, Allah Ma3ak 🙂

Here’s an RSIS commentary written by me and my colleague Devin on the prospects of UNFCCC talks in Cancun. Enjoy!

Abstract

Given the dismal results of COP15 in Copenhagen last year, there has been growing pessimism on the prospects of the forthcoming COP16 meeting in Cancun. Governments and civil society should push for a better outcome.

To view the commentary (in pdf format), please click here.

A couple of publications that are 3 months dated…. but hey, better late than never!! ;-D

Update on COP 15: States’ Deliberations and Decisions

By Caballero-Anthony, M. Kuntjoro, I.A. & Jamil, S. NTS Alert, January 2010/1, Centre for NTS Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies

 Update on COP15: Civil Society Actions and Reactions to COP 15

By Caballero-Anthony, M. Kuntjoro, I.A. & Jamil, S. NTS Alert, January 2010/2, Centre for NTS Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies

Ok so clearly there’s been a certain degree of tardiness in my blog postings for the past few months. But hey, what can I say… its been a pretty busy period.

Back on the scene, after submitting my Masters dissertation today – entitled Democracies and Effective Climate Change Mitigation – An Indonesian Case Study. Like any post-graduate course – what more working at the same time – it has been an excruciating experience but nevertheless a big relief off me after handing over those 2 soft-bound copies across the Graduate Students Office’s reception counter.  *PHEWWW!….. (for now..)*

The rationale for the topic was simple. Literature on Democracies seem to suggest that democratic states have the best political system to address environmental problems as they allow for multi-stakeholder participation, a freedom of information and association and accountability. Yet, with this back drop, why is it then that the leading democratic countries still fail to address global climate change? The US, which is the bastion of liberal democracy, is ironically the biggest carbon emitter and has not signed the Kyoto Protocol. Several European states also falter in meeting their carbon emission targets, and this is further exacerbated by the issues of carbon leakage from EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme.

More importantly, what does mean for young democracies in the developing world – many of which have already been struggling to adapt to the new circumstances that come with democratisation. Can these young democracies withstand the pressures of democratisation, economic development and environmentalism? The Indonesian case study is significant for future research and policy implications given the fact that not only is Indonesia a young democracy in the developing world, it is also considered the 3rd largest carbon emitter in the world (when emissions from degradation is included). Moreover, the need to conserve their forests is all the more vital as global carbon sinks – as seen by the big chunks of funding being pumped in to support REDD projects across the archipelago.

I must say it has been challenging putting this paper together… something so theoretical such as democracy, and something so technical like climate change mitigation.

Below are some sources which found fascinating and definitely worth referring to for future research and policy deliberations.

Battig, M. & Bernauer, T. 2009, National Institutions and Global Public Goods: Are Democracies More Cooperative in Climate Change Policy?, International Organization, Vol. 63, pp. 281 – 308 (available in pdf)

Barr, C., Dermawan, A., Purnomo, H., & Komarudin, H. 2010, Financial governance and Indonesia’s Reforestation Fund during the Soeharto and post-Suharto periods, 1989-2009: A political economic analysis of lessons for REDD+, CIFOR Occasional paper 52, Center for International Forestry Research

Nomura, Ko, 2007, Democratisation and Environmental Non-governmental Organisations in Indonesia, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp. 495 – 517

Payne, R. 1995, Freedom and the Environment, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 6, No.3, pp. 41-55

Walker, Peter A. 1999, Democracy and environment: congruencies and contradictions in southern Africa, Political Geography, Vol. 18, Issue 3, pp. 257-284

I can’t drive. Its been something that I’ve been putting off for the past 3 years. Nevertheless, there are lessons to learn from this.

Lesson #1: It’s natural for me to feel like a loser, since there’s a Toyota Rav 4 in the carpark that I could use at my disposal, if I felt like it. Convenient for weekend drives to Johor or late nights in Clarke Quay.

Lesson #2: It’s natural that I would be sweating buckets, as I take the 10 minute walk out to the train station under the sweltering sun, on days when I don’t have a ride out.

Lesson #3: It’s natural that I would be jumping into a taxi, because I felt lazy or was late for an appointment.

Lesson #4: It’s natural that I would be annoyed with taxi companies and their extra peak hour surcharges… especially that $3 CBD charge…. urgh!

Lesson #5: It’s natural to be waking up earlier only to be squeezing on buses and trains and trying to avoid being in the line of projection of someone who lets out a huge “AAHH CHOOO!”

Lesson #6: Despite it all, it’s natural for me to be optimistic about my situation…

I’m saving money.

I’m getting more exercise from walking than I normally would.

And most of all, I’m minimising my carbon footprint.

Had I driven, I guess I would be contributing to this.

What’s your carbon footprint  like? Find out here.