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The Fifth IPCC Assessment Report has at last been completed and made public. Since April 15th the (third) volume Mitigation of Climate Change has been made available, concluding the triad of the most awaited publication from the world of climate change science and policy at the international level. The only piece missing to complete the work of the Fifth IPCC Assessment Report on Climate Change is the Synthesis Report, the document summarizing the three volumes published in recent months, which will be approved and published in late October 2014 in Copenhagen.
The first volume confirmed human responsibility for climate change, the second outlined the impacts and risks that have and will come of it. IPCC’s third working group, of which I am one of the Vice Presidents, is trying to find solutions to the problem of future climate change through appropriate mitigation policies, namely the reduction of greenhouse gases.
Prepared by 235 authors from 57 countries, the third volume of the report integrates more than 38,000 comments received by more than 800 expert reviewers in the various stages of writing and revision, to answer this question: what can and should we do to limit climate change as much as possible in the coming decades?
The Point We Are At
One of the main messages emerging from the work is that, despite the new awareness and mitigation efforts put in place over the past decades, the emissions of greenhouse gases have increased more rapidly between 2000 and 2010 than in any other decade: the rate of emission growth of the past decade has been 2.2% per year, while in the period between 1970 and 2000 it averaged 1.3% per year. 78% of emissions derive from the use of fossil fuels and industrial processes. The forestry sector is the only one experiencing a decline in emissions, due to the reduction of deforestation and hence an increased capacity by forests to absorb carbon dioxide.
What We Can Expect
In the absence of more mitigation efforts than at present, the emissions increase (driven by population and economic growth in developing countries and insufficiently offset by significant improvements in energy efficiency in developed countries) will lead to an increase in average global temperature in 2100 of between 3.7 and 4.8 degrees centigrade in comparison with pre-industrial levels.
It is clear that if we continue on this path we will get adrift inexorably from the so-called “2-degree” target formalized in the COP 16 negotiations in Cancun (2010): the two-degree rise in temperature over preindustrial levels is recognized internationally as the threshold not to be exceeded if we are to comply with Article 2 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which stabilizes global emissions to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” But the Fifth IPCC Report also points out that this objective has become very difficult if not almost impossible to achieve by now, in the light of the levels of concentration of greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere and expected in the coming years.
What Must Be Done And When
To close the 2-degree target gap, emissions must peak off as soon as possible and then decline by 40-70% within mid-century, reaching a total of zero in 2100. We need to act now, because any delay takes us adrift of any chance of a green transition that allows the decoupling of economic growth from the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, and significantly increases the mitigation costs. Mitigation options include actions for energy efficiency and decarbonization (renewable energy sources, nuclear power, carbon capture and storage of CO2 (CCS), bio-energy, reduction of deforestation and forest management, reduction and management of waste, carbon market, carbon taxation, reduction or removal of subsidies for fossil fuels, and overall changes in lifestyle). The IPCC report gives no recommendation for the most appropriate measures to be taken but limits itself to analyzing them all accurately, in order to provide policymakers with the tools to make informed, effective decisions.
The Ideal World
The optimal situation for dealing successfully and efficiently with the climate challenge is one in which all the countries of the world implement immediate mitigation actions, in which there is a single carbon price in a worldwide emissions market, and in which a combination of all the technological solutions and policies listed above is available and usable in all sectors (production and use of energy, industry, transport, agriculture, forestry, urban development). In this ideal world the costs of mitigation might be limited. But unfortunately this ideal world doesn’t exist….
Costs, Benefits And Investments
In an ideal world scenario of mitigation as described above, one that meets the two-degree target, the costs are estimated at between 1 and 4% of worldwide GDP in 2030 and between 2 and 6% in 2050. These are only the direct costs, which do not take into account the benefits that would result from maintaining a climate more similar to today’s, from having reduced air pollution, lower impacts on ecosystems, water and land use, as well as greater energy security. But the costs will increase rapidly if the mitigation measures are applied late, or if some of the currently available technologies (nuclear or CCS for example) were not fully applicable, or if the resources for necessary investments were not forthcoming….
For the first time, the IPCC Report also assesses the investments needed to achieve the two-degree target: in the next two decades (2010-2029) investments in clean energy production technologies will have to increase by 100%, that is redouble, while investments in fossil fuels decrease by 20%.
Also An Ethical Question
From the data presented in the report, which will be used as a scientific basis in international negotiations under the UNFCCC in the coming years, there are striking inequalities in per capita emissions of greenhouse gases: high-income countries have per capita emissions even nine times higher than those of the poorer countries. The issue of climate change is not, therefore, just an environmental issue but also a matter of economic and social equity that forces us to face the impacts that the climate challenge poses, which are more severe in the developing (and hence more vulnerable) countries. Most of the growth in emissions that has taken place since 1970 is the responsibility of the industrialized countries, associated with their economic development. The recent rise in emissions, and that foreseen for the future, is instead linked largely to the regions in the developing world, which are growing at a very rapid pace. Hence it is necessary to establish a cooperation between countries that implies an ethical, responsible commitment on the part of those that have so far contributed most to the problem, i.e. the developed countries, and a likewise ethical, responsible commitment on the part of those that in the future are destined to exceed the tolerable limit of human interference with the climate system.
Are you interested in Climate-Smart Agriculture?
Tune into the FAO's climate-smart agriculture online learning events next month.
2 webinars and online discussions The learning event consists of 2 webinars of 1.5 hours in the month of May 2014, combined with online discussions on Climate-Smart Agriculture approach and policies. The presentations will be followed by a question and answer session where participants have the opportunity to ask the presenters about Climate-Smart Agriculture approach and policies.
Webinar 1: Climate-Smart Agriculture – definition and approach
Webinar 2: Implementing Climate-Smart Agriculture – Policies and institutions are key
Reserve your seat now The event is organized by FAO’s Climate Change, Energy and Land Tenure division in collaboration with colleagues and partners. Enrolled participants will receive invitations to the webinars and more details prior to the event.
Investing in the future is always a challenging decision, for example planning for retirement will often seem to be less urgent when we have pressing daily financial issues that have to be addressed now (unless you are near to retirement age of course). Not tomorrow, not in 10 years, but today. But the truth is that, in order to have a financially stable future, we need to know our risks, assess the potential losses and costs associated with them, and plan accordingly.
Governments face a similar challenge when it comes to thinking about climate change: they need to plan now to be able to manage the risks associated with the climate of today, tomorrow and the future.
In Trinidad and Tobago, being a small island state, you face very clear risks: you have fragile ecosystems, limited land space and a concentration of socio-economic activities within a narrow coastal belt including critical infrastructure (think power generation, ports, oil and gas facilities) which will certainly be adversely affected by rising sea levels and other climate related impacts. According to different studies, climate change will have a significant impact on the country, both on environmental and socio-economic levels, affecting primarily 4 key areas: agriculture, health, human settlements (particularly in coastal areas), and water resources. What do you do about addressing the cost of the impacts of climate change?
To help the Government address this challenging task of financially planning for the risks of adaptation to climate change (sorry but unfortunately there is a cost involved based on current greenhouse gas emissions), the IDB has supported the elaboration of a study on the economics of climate adaptation which aims at providing a tool to help design adaptation strategies to increase a county’s resilience against climate change-related hazards. In Trinidad and Tobago, investing in climate adaptation now will pay off in the future: it is estimated that investments in mangrove restoration and the national building code will have payback period of less than five years and positive benefit-cost ratios – those are smart investments!
Adaptation has to be a priority for Trinidad and Tobago, as well as for the rest of the CARICOM states, and this is why this methodology will be shared across the region in an effort to help Caribbean governments plan for the future: the wise decisions of today can certainly help us secure a climate-resilient future. The piper will have to be paid but it is wise to put aside the resources now and in the right place before the costs are too high.
Credit: Let's Talk Climate Change, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
Dr David J. Keeling, Distinguished University Professor of Geography at Western Kentucky University, says “Climate change impacts, both long-term and short-term, are likely to have serious repercussions for Belizean communities without a detailed and comprehensive management plan for accessibility and mobility”. Peruse his exclusive contribution to Caribbean Climate.
Links between climate change and transportation may not seem obvious at first glance, especially when considering the broader social and economic impacts of weather shifts over time and space. The short-term effects of climate events such as tornadoes, hurricanes, tidal surges, or flash floods capture the attention of the media, emergency personnel, and these populations affected primarily because of the immediate humanitarian considerations. People need rescuing, emergency shelters must be provided, potable water and food are needed, and emergency services are charged with helping the devastated communities to recover. Without transportation infrastructure, and without the means to provide accessibility to, and mobility within, the affected areas, tragedy would be compounded. Roads especially are critical to this recovery effort, particularly in poorer regions of a country or in more isolated rural areas, because often this is the only basic infrastructure available to connect people to the outside world.
A longer view of climate change impacts on people and places requires governments and societies to think about transportation in different ways. Of course, we understand intuitively that transport improvements are critical to socio-economic growth and wellbeing, but this does not necessarily translate into concrete policy in many parts of the world, especially Latin America. In Brazil, for example, Latin America’s most robust economy and most populated country, less than 10 percent of the country’s roads are paved, compared to nearly 60 percent in China or 99 percent in Thailand. In smaller countries such as Belize that have fewer available resources, the transportation challenges are more critical and immediate. Climate change impacts, both long-term and short-term, are likely to have serious repercussions for Belizean communities without a detailed and comprehensive management plan for accessibility and mobility.
Less than 20 percent of Belize’s roads are paved, many are two-laned only, some are washboard-dirt in composition, and often patched with gravel or sand. Many Belizean communities are located quite far from major highway access points, and could be viewed as much more susceptible or vulnerable to coastal changes than larger towns and cities. Regional plans for infrastructural improvements under the auspices of the Plan Puebla-Panamá include the Guatemala-Yucatán Axis that aims to improve economic integration and mobility along the Caribbean coast. However, little progress has been made to date, in part because of regional geopolitical differences. Yet local planning for long-term climate change impacts, such as rising sea levels, more intense rainfall, or other climatic shifts, needs to be harmonized with transportation infrastructure challenges in mind. Belize needs to have a comprehensive, forward-looking management plan that anticipates the relationship between climate change, accessibility, and mobility. This is especially critical for the tourism industry and for agriculture, forestry, and other primary economic activities.
As climates change, so too do economic opportunities and potentials. In short, Belize is vulnerable to the long-term impacts of climate change in myriad ways. It needs, therefore, a proactive, integrative set of management goals that recognize how transportation infrastructure is inextricably intertwined with socio-economic goals and strategies. Even a small country like Belize can have big ideas and policies that can set the standard for how to manage future climate change.
Read 3rd International Conference on Climate Services Underway in Jamaica for updates
On Tuesday afternoon, Elvis Grey of the Jamaican Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA) led a “learning journey” of about 35 conference participants to Mafoota, a small farming community in St. James Parish, just outside of Montego Bay. The journey was funded by the CGIAR’s research program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS)
Visiting the farms, which are organized in a cooperative and supply the nearby hotel sector, served as a good reminder of the motivation behind the development and implementation of climate services.
Farms in Mafoota mainly produce vegetables including romaine lettuce, cabbage, sweet potato, yam, bananas, plantains, and callaloo. Farms are fed in part by an irrigation system, though drought and flood are both challenges posed by a variable climate.
Please take a look at the below for a look at the afternoon’s trip.
Credit: Climate Services Partnership Blog
The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) supported the region’s first National Consultation on a Framework for Climate Services in Belize last week (October 30- November 1, 2013). The consultation, organized in association with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the National Meteorological Service of Belize, and the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), sought to advance the priorities under the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) by focusing on:
Assessing climate services needs in the agriculture and food security sector based on generated climate information in the country;
Recommending effective mechanisms and practices to improve interfacing and interactionsbetween climate service providers and users;
Articulating the capacity building needs in terms of mandates, infrastructure and human resources for all the components of GFCS;
Recommending actions to improve productions, sustainable operations and accessibility for climate predictions and services to aid the flow of climate information from global and regional scale to national and local scales;
Charting a roadmap for the effective development and application of climate services in support of agriculture and food security and other climate sensitive sectors in Belize,particularly water, which is of strategic import to the Agricultural Sector of theCaribbean Region.
The consultation brought together key decision-makers and users from the initial four priority areas under the GFCS: agriculture and food security, water, health and disaster risk reduction. It identified suitable mechanisms for improving and sustaining the flow of climate information to users with particular focus on agriculture and food security. The exercise also sought to enhance understanding of the need for climate services on sectors most impacted by climate change that can be implemented at the national level across the Caribbean.
The Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) was established in 2009 at the World Climate Conference-3, which was organized by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in collaboration with other United Nations (UN) agencies, governments and partners to steer the development of climate services worldwide.
The vision of the GFCS is to enable society to better manage the risks and opportunities arising from climate variability and change, especially for those who are most vulnerable to such risks.
The GFCS, which was launched in the Caribbean in May 2013, use five components for the production, delivery and application of climate information and services in the four priority areas outlined:
User Interface Platform
Climate Services Information System
Observations and Monitoring
Research, Modelling and Prediction
The next National Consultation on a Framework for Climate Services will be held in Barbados.
The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Secretariat’s third climate change seminar is underway (September 3 to 5) at the Royal Saint Lucian Hotel in Saint Lucia.
The annual event, which focuses on ‘strategies and innovations in tourism and agriculture’, will feature a Mini Festival on climate change. The OECS says the theme for this year’s seminar, Climate Change, Tourism and Agriculture –Strategies and innovations for adaptation, is especially significant in light of negative impacts already being felt by these sectors. Predictions indicate that OECS Member States are likely to experience even more adverse economic impacts on their most important industries, which depend heavily on the attractiveness of natural environments; and good weather and climate.
A major output, which is expected from the seminar, is a portfolio of new ideas for strategies and innovations in agriculture and tourism that will enable these sectors to better manage climate-related risk and build resilience. The seminar is therefore organised around a number of pertinent topics, which will address both sectors, including:
1. Climate Change Impacts on Agriculture and Tourism 2. The Economic Contribution of Small Island Resources to the Tourism Sector 3. Maximizing Business Benefits through Building Resilience 4. Reducing climate related risks to agriculture and tourism 5. Sustainable Land Management and Agriculture 6. A look at adaptation measures for farming
The topics identified will be delivered by selected experts from around the region and beyond.
The OECS Secretariat estimates that some 80 participants will be in attendance at the two-day seminar representing private entities, government agencies, international and regional bodies – who work in agriculture, tourism, environment and climate change.
The seminar is being held as part of the OECS/USAID RRACC Project – a five-year developmental project which was launched in 2011 to assist OECS governments with building resilience through the implementation of climate change adaptation measures.
Specifically, RRACC will build an enabling environment in support of policies and laws to reduce vulnerability; address information gaps that constrain issues related to climate vulnerabilities; make interventions in freshwater and coastal management to build resilience; increase awareness on issues related to climate change and improve capacities for climate change adaptation.
** This article is an edited version of a statement from the OECS Secretariat.
The Board of Governors of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre concluded its annual meeting (August 22 -24) in Belize yesterday. Among the key decisions taken, the Centre will continue to pursue a broader mix of regional and national projects and actions, advance efforts to boost its institutional capacity, and expand its collaborative work with the various economic and social sectors, including health, renewable energy and youth.
Regional and National Tracks
Chairman of the Board Dr Leonard Nurse says the Centre’s primary focus on a combination of regional and national (dual track) climate change activities is consistent with its regional mandate. This mandate is outlined in the Regional Framework and its accompanying Implementation Plan, which was approved by CARICOM Heads of Governments last year. The dual track approach “allows us to enhance the region’s resilience, so that we can minimize the impact of climate change on certain critical sectors, including agriculture, fisheries, tourism and others, that underpin the economic viability of the region”.
The Chairman notes that the Centre is already strategically developing and implementing dual track initiatives that address the priorities outlined in the Regional Framework and accompanying Implementation Plan— among them is the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank-funded Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR) and the Caribbean component of the Intra-ACP Global Climate Change Alliance programme, which is supported by the European Union. Under the PPCR initiative, the Centre will be working with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) to better understand the linkages between climate change and human health.
The Centre has expanded rapidly having developed the capacity to successfully execute a suite of regional climate change programmes worth between US$40 and US$50 million over the last five years. Pilot projects such as the installation of a Reverse Osmosis Plant in Bequia using solar energy (photovoltaic) have improved access to potable water. Elements of this project are being replicated across the region— Petite Martinique, Carriacou (both dependencies of Grenada), Belize, Barbados and The Bahamas. These successes have resulted in increased demand for the Centre’s services.
Executive Director Dr Kenrick Leslie says the Centre was directed by CARICOM Heads to “work with national governments to put together programmes that would help them develop bankable projects that can be funded under the various mechanisms under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Therefore, the Centre is putting maximum effort to ensure CARICOM Member States get their fair share of the financial resources available through the Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Fund and other funds to help them in their adaptation efforts. That is our primary thrust— to meet the mandate given to us by the regional Heads [last year].”
Accordingly, the Centre is strengthening its capacity by consolidating the work of its Monitoring and Evaluation Unit to better prepare it to function as an implementing agency. This will enable the Centre to access resources to implement programmes that are now largely within the remit of globally recognized institutions. The Centre’s expanded M&E Unit will assist regional governments in developing, monitoring and evaluating programmes. The Board has also unveiled plans to strengthen its fiduciary oversight through initiatives such as more frequent financial reporting, a Finance and Audit Sub-Committee of the Board of Governors, an internal audit function for the Centre and increased focus on data and plant security.
Dr Nurse says these actions are necessary given the Centre’s shift from a project based orientation to more programmatic activities. He notes that the Centre, which is primarily funded through grants, is advancing efforts to complete the establishment of a Trust Fund. The Fund, which has been seeded with a grant from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, will be managed by a Board of Trustees external to the Centre. The Trust Fund will be a vital component of the Centre’s thrust to ensure its financial sustainability.