A Liter of Light, lighting up lives!

Ever thought of what you would normally do to a plastic bottle after drinking out of it? Ever thought of what happens to a bottle, once you throw it away? Or how you could use the bottle in any other way, than disposing it? Well here is one solution that has caught the world’s attention. This revolutionizing, new solar lighting movement is called, ‘Liter of Light’.

A Brazilian mechanic and inventor, Alfredo Moser, invented a unique and simple alternative to illumination, when a power outage affected his workshop. With little materials around him, he used everyday items to build a daylight solution. Inspired by the simplicity of this invention, Illac Diaz, founder of MyShelter Foundation, decided to spread the invention in his energy hungry, cyclonic affected parts of his native country, the Philippines. The ‘Liter of Light’ movement started since then; Opening 53 chapters across nations like India, Philippines, United States, Pakistan, among other, since 2011.

So what is so unique about this solar based solution? How is it different from other solar based solutions out there? Why is it attracting so much attention worldwide? The answer lies in the innovation itself. This unique solution uses minimum resources – a plastic bottle, a little amount of bleach, a small aluminium sheet, resin and basic tools.  This bottle is now ready to be fitted on an aluminium rooftop. On a sunny day, sunlight refracts through the bleached water, illuminating the room below.  It is estimated to have an effect, equivalent to a 50 Watt bulb[1]. All this, at a cost of less than $2[2]! Since the success of Liter of Light’s daylight solution, the foundation has started work on a night light solution as well. The night solution is modular and integrates with the daylight solution using a few LED bulbs and a compact solar panel. Though the cost of the night light solution is presently around $15-20[3], Liter of Light is committed to innovate further, to reduce cost below $10, noting that the minimum cost for a one light bulb system is $10, which is yet marginally high for most regions that fall under extreme poverty.

According to a World Bank[4] report on energy, 1.1 billion people are yet without access to electricity. Globally, an estimated 250 to 500 million households still rely on fuel-based lamps to supply their basic lighting needs. Kerosene being the most predominant fuel. Users of kerosene lamps pay 20-30%[5] of their annual family’s income for the fuel. However a bigger price is paid for their well-being, in the form of injuries from burns, insufficient illumination for education of children, and the significant health impacts from indoor household air pollution (UNEP). An estimated 4.3 million deaths every year from lung cancer, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, acute lower respiratory disease, and ischaemic heart disease are attributable to HAP emissions[6]. More than three quarters of those deaths (3.31 million) occur in South East Asia and the Western Pacific[7]. Kerosene is also a major emitter of Black Carbon[8], a major contributor to climate change along with the CO2 released from burning of Kerosene[9] . Solar based solutions like the Liter of Light daylight and night lights are helping people to switch to a safer source of light and an inexpensive solution.

Among the regions Liter of Light has penetrated, the most impressive utility of the product are in war-affected, human displaced and catastrophic climatic zones. For instance, the northern belt of Pakistan, Philippines and the east coast of India. Around 35 kilometres southeast of Peshawar, lies one of Pakistan’s largest refugee camps – Jalozai IDP refugee camp. Its home to an estimated 36,000 refugees. Access to basic amenities like electricity, roads and water are very scarce. Maternity wards have very little or no light to run emergency operations. The camp has no lighting along the streets and public washrooms. Vaqas Butt, Founder of ‘Liter of Light – Pakistan’ in collaboration with Pepsi Co Pakistan initiated “Lighting up Lives”. This programme has lit up public restrooms, streets and hospital labor wards. Refugees from the camp express their feeling of having light at night as ‘a blessing’ to their hardship they face.


Similarly, in the far south East Asia region of the Philippines, a country constantly ravaged by cyclonic storms, Liter of Light installed up to 200,000 daylight and nightlight solutions (pepsico). ‘Liter of Light Bangalore’, recently helped light three hamlets, near coast of Vizag. This included installation of streetlights and hut rooftop night light solutions in areas where electricity had never been reached. A huge impact has been in the employment of rural men and women, to earn a living by maintaining the solution.

Many critics to the Liter of Light movement raise one very important question. How is the use of waste bottles sustainable? What happens to the bottles after its lifespan is over? Use of the bottles for lighting helps in reducing the otherwise disposed bottles which usually land up in landfills and take years to decompose. The estimated lifespan of a Liter of Light bottle and the bleach mixture has been recorded to be around an average of 3 years, though, different regions and different conditions could extend or shorten the time. Liter of Light is considering a plan of action with regard to the disposal of the bottles post its usage stage.


Energy for all is going to be the single most important priority for all developed and developing economies in the coming decades. As their economies grow, so does their need for energy. Sustainable energy solutions like renewable energy will be a crucial factor, as economies are looking to curb their impact on the environment as they grow. Sustainable low cost energy solutions like the Liter of Light initiative will play a crucial role in providing energy requirements to regions that would yet need distributed power.



Joseph Varun


[1] “Liter of Light’s solar-powered, DIY lamp made from a plastic …” 2015. 11 Jun. 2015 <>

[2] “Liter of Light | Global Brands Magazine.” 2014. 11 Jun. 2015 <>

[3] “Bottling Solar Energy for All by Illac Diaz — The G Project.” 2013. 11 Jun. 2015 <>

[4] “Energy Overview – World Bank.” 2013. 11 Jun. 2015 <>

[5] “Solar Power Off the Grid: Energy Access for World’s Poor by …” 2012. 10 Jun. 2015 <>

[6] “WHO | Household air pollution and health.” 2005. 10 Jun. 2015 <>

[7] “Kerosene Lamps are an Important Target for Reducing …” 2014. 10 Jun. 2015 <>

[8]Black carbon (BC) is the most strongly light-absorbing component of particulate matter (PM), and is formed by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass. BC is emitted directly into the atmosphere in the form of fine particles (PM2.5). BC is the most effective form of PM, by mass, at absorbing solar energy: per unit of mass in the atmosphere, BC can absorb a million times more energy than carbon dioxide (CO2). BC is a major component of “soot”, a complex light-absorbing mixture that also contains some organic carbon (OC).

[9] “The kerosene lamp and black carbon – warming the planet …” 2013. 10 Jun. 2015 <>

First time in 800,000 years: April’s CO2 levels above 400 ppm


Less than a year after scientists first warned that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could rise above 400 parts per million and stay there, it has finally happened.

For the first time in recorded history, the average level of CO2 has topped 400 ppm for an entire month. The high levels of carbon dioxide is largely considered by scientists a key factor in global warming, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Earth System Research Lab.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a part of the University of California, San Diego, reported that April’s average amount of CO2 was 401.33 ppm, with each day reading above 400 ppm, reports USA Today.

According to the Institute, CO2 levels have not surpassed 300 ppm in 800,000 years. It is estimated that during Earth’s ice ages, the C02 levels were around 200 ppm, with warmer periods — as well as prior to the Industrial Revolution — having carbon dioxide levels of 280 ppm.

Past levels of CO2 are found in old air samples preserved as bubbles in the Atlantic ice sheet, according to Scripps.

Throughout the year, there are changes in CO2 levels that occur naturally from the growth of plants and trees. Carbon dioxide levels often peak in the spring due to plant growth, and decrease in the fall when plants die, according to NOAA. However, human CO2 production has exacerbated the effects, causing global warming and climate change.

Scientists have been measuring the levels of carbon dioxide over the past fifty years. Since 1958, the Keeling Curve — named after developer Charles Keeling — has been used to monitor the levels of greenhouse gasses atop Hawaii’s Mauna Loa. When Keeling first started monitoring CO2 levels, the amount of carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere was 313 ppm.

After Keeling’s death in 2005, his son Ralph, a professor of geochemistry and director of the Scripps CO2 Program, continued the measurements. In a statement last year, he warned that CO2 levels would “hit 450-ppm within a few decades.”

Source: CBS NEWS, May 6, 2014

The Working Group II Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report Released

The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be the fifth in a series of such reports. The IPCC was established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to assess scientific, technical and socio-economic information concerning climate change, its potential effects and options for adaptation and mitigation.

The Fifth Assessment Report is now under way and is expected to be finalized in 2014. As has been the case in the past, the outline of the AR5 will be developed through a scoping process which involves climate change experts from all relevant disciplines and users of IPCC reports, in particular representatives from governments. Governments and organizations involved in the Fourth Assessment Report were asked to submit comments and observations in writing with the submissions analysed by the panel. The report will be delivered in stages, starting with Working Group I’s report on the physical science basis, based on 9,200 peer-reviewed studies. The first document released was Working Group I’s summary for policy makers on 27 September 2013. The second document released was the summary for policy makers of Working Group 2’s report, entitled “Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability,” on March 31, 2014.



Island nation takes on the world’s polluters

By Jaspreet Kindra , IRIN

KOROR, PALAU, 3 February 2014 (IRIN) – A Russian film crew arrived in Palau at the end of 2013 to shoot the reality show ‘Octpob’ on one of the archipelago’s more than 500 islands. The show leaves contestants in isolated locales with limited water and food to test their survival skills. In 2004, the US version of the show, Survivor, was also shot in Palau.

Palauans welcomed the TV crew and its glittering cast of celebrities – it did, after all, bring in much-needed revenue. But the situation presented an uncomfortable irony: while Russian and American contestants have tested their survival abilities in Palau, Russia and the US have adopted strong positions at the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks, which could threaten Palau’s own chances of surviving as sea levels rise.

The UNFCCC talks aim to come up with a treaty that assigns responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and for the provision financial and technical support to vulnerable countries, like Palau, that have not contributed to global warming. The talks have met resistance from the developed world and emerging economies like China and India, which say they are not responsible for past emissions and should not be held accountable for emissions in the future.

Time is running out for low-lying islands like Palau. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said in a recent assessment, “if the world were to stay on the current fossil-fuel intensive growth model” dealing with the impact of changing climate in 14 of the Pacific Ocean islands, including Palau, could cost them 12.7 percent of their collective annual GDP equivalent by 2100.

These include losses in the production of the region’s main crops, drops in catches of tuna, and declines in tourism revenue as the coral reefs die. It also covers increasing health expenses. ADB estimates that “most of the estimated health costs would arise from respiratory disorders, followed by malaria, and deaths from tropical storms”.

Palau’s President Tommy Remengesau and former president Johnson Toribiong offer insight into the threats their land and other countries in their region face:

A search for justice

Frustrated by the lack of progress he saw at the two UNFCCC conferences he attended during his tenure, in 2009 and 2010, Toribiong decided to seek legal clarity on the issue from the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

To do this, he had to raise the issue at the UN General Assembly as a resolution, and he had to obtain majority support from member countries to pose the question: “What are the obligations under international law of a State for ensuring that activities under its jurisdiction or control that emit greenhouse gases do not cause, or substantially contribute to, serious damage to another State or States?”

President Remengesau told IRIN, “We made this request knowing fully well that the big countries of the world, who happen to be the big emitters, are actually the whole foundation of the United Nations.” The world’s biggest emitters are also the UN’s biggest donors, and all five permanent members of the UN Security Council are major greenhouse gas producers.

But Palauans realized the need “to have a heightened awareness and heightened discussion” on the issue, he said, which they hoped the resolution would bring.

Small island states and some developing countries supported the resolution, but the resolution did not receive majority support.

Then Toribiong says he was asked by the US to “tone down our push for the submission of this question.” The US and other countries argued that a legal process to deal with the issue – the UNFCCC – already existed.

Still, Palau pressed on.


Toribiong says that since he left office in early 2013, the request has “languished”. But Remengesau says that the country is still lobbying for support from member states, and Toribiong also reiterated his willingness to push for support.

Yet insiders say it would be hard for Palau to go against the wishes of the US, which administered the archipelago as a trust territory from the 1940s to 1994. Palau has signed a Compact of Free Association with US, under which the US provides it with substantial financial assistance.

IRIN contacted the US government for a response to Toribiong’s comments. A US Department of State official said: “Both the causes and impacts of climate change are global in nature. We believe that the correct avenue for solving the climate problem is through concerted international action achieved through negotiations among parties, not through the type of judicial procedures offered by the ICJ.

“We are now in the middle of negotiations, agreed to by all parties, toward a new climate agreement, and we believe that the world is most likely to achieve an effective and ambitious global agreement if the global community focuses on those negotiations. If we focus on achieving a good outcome in 2015, we should be able to produce more effective approaches for addressing this critical problem.”

Some countries expressed support for the idea of an ICJ approach, while standing by the role of the UNFCCC talks. A spokesperson for the German environmental ministry told IRIN, “Germany was generally open to the initiative and to exploring the idea of an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice.” But the UNFCCC, and its Kyoto Protocol, “is the appropriate forum to negotiate a common understanding of questions related to this evolving area of international law. The concerns underlying Palau’s initiative are now being addressed within this framework in the context of the negotiations around loss and damage.”

Shaping laws through the ICJ

In 2012, Stuart Beck, Palau’s then-ambassador to the UN, and Aaron Korman, Palau’s legal adviser, taught a course at Yale Law School in the US on Palau’s effort to secure a legal opinion from the ICJ. In a report produced by the course in 2013, co-authored with Yale academics Douglas Kysar and Joseph Field, Beck and Korman maintained that an ICJ advisory opinion “would promote international efforts to come to an agreement within the UNFCCC negotiation process. Even though the nature of an Advisory Opinion is non-binding, it would entail moral authority and would establish a new legal baseline for the UNFCCC to build upon by articulating a ‘clear legal standard applicable to all states’.”

There is precedent for the ICJ providing advisory opinions to the UN General Assembly to help shape international law.

In 1996, in response to a question by the General Assembly on whether the threat or use of nuclear weapons could ever be permitted under international law, the ICJ determined in an advisory opinion that “the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict”, but it could not conclusively rule whether the threat “would be lawful or unlawful in an extreme cases of self-defence”.

The ICJ also helped shape international law with its ruling on the 1996 expulsion of Ahmadou Sadio Diallo, a Guinean citizen, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [then known as Zaire]. In 2010, the ICJ ruled that DRC had violated Diallo’s rights; the court also ordered DRC to paycompensation. Some analysts feel the climate change question could lead the ICJ to assess loss and damage caused by climate change, which could eventually open the door to discussions on whether affected countries need to be compensated.

Cosmin Corendea, an associate academic officer with the UN University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), says it would be worth the effort to get an ICJ opinion on climate change.

“The ICJ never denied rendering its opinion when asked by the UN General Assembly. More, it proved its determination in shaping new international law when issuing its opinion in the nuclear weapons case (one of the most relevant opinions in regards to climate change) or when judging on compensation [in the] Diallo case (first case on damages in a human rights case),” Corendea told IRIN in an email.

He added, “However, for ICJ in its advisory capacity to influence the new climate change agreement(s) and progressively determine new legal approaches towards this increasing phenomenon, there is a strong need of political will, which would eventually translate in[to] an official request by the UN General Assembly. Until then, many speculations and interrupted opportunities will arise, while ICJ judges are still waiting in their chambers [to express] their valuable opinions in regards to climate change.”