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At UN Biodiversity conference, new guidelines for agro-environmental policies in Latin America & Caribbean
The guidelines will serve as a template for countries to create their own policies to promote sustainable production and consumption patterns
In an effort to combat the impacts of environmental degradation and promote sustainable agriculture in the face of climate change, FAO this week presented a set of Voluntary guidelines for agro-environmental policies meant to help policy makers in Latin America and the Caribbean in their ongoing work to eradicate hunger and poverty in the region.
The guidelines were introduced at an event on the sidelines of COP 13 – the UN conference on Biodiversity taking place in Cancun, Mexico, December 4-17 – for an audience of ministers and representatives of Latin American and Caribbean countries.
The guidelines will serve as a template for countries to create their own policies to promote sustainable production and consumption patterns, enabling them to transform their agricultural systems, ensure sustainable development and comply with the Paris Climate Agreement.
According to FAO, the transition to a sustainable future requires action on the intersection of economy, society, agriculture and natural ecosystems.
The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean share common environmental challenges, including the need to adapt agriculture to climate change, conserve biodiversity, manage their water resources and soils, and mitigate their greenhouse gas emissions.
Other participants in the event included Mexico’s National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO), the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the NGO Razonatura.
Protecting the resources that support food security
Thirty-seven percent of the surface area of Latin America and the Caribbean is used for agricultural activities, which presents great challenges for sustainable food production and the care of the environment.
According to FAO, the region is experiencing increasing pressure on the natural resources that underpin food production and food security.
The guidelines presented at the COP13 point out that the impacts of environmental degradation and climate change mainly affect the most vulnerable social sectors.
Family farmers, small scale fishermen, smallholder forest producers, indigenous peoples and traditional communities are among those most directly dependent on natural resources for their subsistence and food security.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, family farmers account for 75 percent of total producers -involving some 60 million people – a number that exceeds 90 percent in some countries. These farmers safeguard the environment and the natural resources on which they depend and their work is key for the sector’s current and future development.
What are the Voluntary guidelines?
The Voluntary guidelines for agro-environmental policies have been prepared through a broad process of consultation between authorities and specialists in the region, with the support of the International Cooperation Program between Brazil and FAO.
The implementation of these guidelines may enhance the potential environmental benefits of agricultural, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture activities, reduce their impacts on ecosystems and improve food availability, as well as food and nutritional security.
The countries of the region, with FAO’s support, will promote these voluntary guidelines as a guide to improving policies under an agro-environmental approach that links society, territory, environment and economy in a more integrated and harmonious way.
Policies emerging from these guidelines will be formulated through interaction with different social actors, and seek to promote rural development with a territorial approach, according to principles of conservation and sustainable management of natural resources.
Precious resources under threat
Latin America and the Caribbean accounts for 15 percent of the world’s total agricultural land, receives almost 30 percent of precipitation and generates 33 percent of global runoff.
However, the rapid exploitation of minerals, gas, forests and pastures is producing dramatic changes in land use: the region currently accounts for 14 percent of global land degradation, a figure that reaches 26 percent for Mesoamerica.
Although deforestation has declined in recent decades, the region still has the second highest rate in the world, and each year more than two million hectares of forest are lost.
In the last three decades water extraction has doubled in the region at a rate well above the world average, most of which is used in agriculture.
Credit: Military Technologies
The government of Japan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched the US$15 million Japan-Caribbean climate change partnership (J-CCCP) on Thursday, in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The launch follows a two-day meeting with more than 40 representatives from eight Caribbean countries, including government officials, technical advisors, NGO and UN partners to set out a roadmap to mitigate and adapt to climate change, in line with countries’ long-term strategies.
The new initiative will help put in practice Caribbean countries’ actions and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change, such as nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) and national adaptation plans (NAPs). It will also boost access to sustainable energy and help reduce fossil fuel imports and dependence, setting the region on a low-emission development path, while addressing critical balance of payments constraints.
“The government of Japan is pleased to partner with UNDP. It is envisaged that the project will also contribute to building a platform for information sharing in developing and implementing climate change policies and promoting the transfer of adaptation and mitigation technologies. Japan expects, through pilot projects and information sharing, the project will enable the Caribbean countries to enhance their capacity to cope with climate change and natural disasters,” said Masatoshi Sato, minister-counsellor and deputy head of mission at the embassy of Japan in Trinidad and Tobago, stressing that the partnership will also promote South-South and North-South cooperation, including study tours to Japan for government officials and technical advisors.
Participating countries include Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname, benefitting an estimated 200,000 women and men in 50 communities.
“This partnership comes at a critical time in our nation’s sustainable development programme,” said Gloria Joseph, permanent secretary in the ministry of planning, economic development and investment in Dominica. “Dominica has experienced firsthand the devastating and crippling effect that climate change can have on a nation’s people, their livelihoods and economy, risking losing up to 90 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) due to a tropical storm or hurricane. Dominica stands ready and welcomes the opportunity to benefit from early response warning systems, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction measures as it seeks to restore and ‘build back better’.”
Climate change is recognised as one of the most serious challenges to the Caribbean. With the likelihood that climate change will exacerbate the frequency and intensity of the yearly hurricane season, comprehensive measures are needed to protect at-risk communities. Boosting resilience is crucial for the region’s development and is a clear part of UNDP’s global strategic plan of programme priorities.
Negative impacts on land, water resources and biodiversity associated with climate change have also been predicted with the potential to affect shoreline stability, the health of coastal and marine ecosystems and private property, as well as ecosystem services. Increasing coastal erosion and severe coral reef bleaching events are already evident in some locations.
“UNDP has been championing the cause of climate change in the Caribbean for many years and we are pleased to partner with the Government of Japan toward the implementation of climate change projects in eight Caribbean countries,” said Rebeca Arias, regional hub director for UNDP’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean. “In light of the COP21 agreement, these projects are timely in assisting countries to respond more effectively to the impacts of climate change and to increase their resilience through actions today to make them stronger for tomorrow.”
Credit: Caribbean News Now
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is partnering with a number of governments as it strives to help boost the resilience of member states to climate change.
The CARICOM region, with its 15 islands, is considered one of the world’s most important areas of biodiversity. The region is now moving fast towards the sustainable management of both marine areas and coastal resources.
A new partnership between CARICOM and the German government involves the protection of these precious resources from the impacts of climate change.
“Our story is about how we were able to set the boundaries in terms of the fisheries reserve. You realise now as ecotourism, as the product developed, we have more users of the area. We need to protect the reef. We need to protect the fisheries industry,” says Anthony Charles, representative of the Soufriere Marine Management Agency. That body is responsible for protecting over 12 kilometres of rich biodiversity, including mountains, rivers, active volcanoes and coral reefs.
Charles says partnerships with friendly governments are crucial in continuing efforts to combat the challenges posed to these resources, particularly diminishing fish stocks.
“The generation of fisher(s) that we had 15 years ago is completely different to what we have today and clearly education, advocacy is very important because we realise it’s not just the matter of the fishing industry, it’s the protection and the sustainable use of our resources,” he said.
Representative of the German government Michael Freudenberg says the partnership with CARICOM is based on a commitment to develop renewable energy and energy efficiency.
“The Caribbean is particularly vulnerable to the observed and projected impacts of climate change because of its geographic location and reliance on natural resources for economic activities and livelihoods … Germany supports regional cooperation as a tool to combine our efforts for the countries affected by climate change and under-development. Saint Lucia can bear witness, I think, to climate-related disasters and the effects of national resilience and national solidarity,” he said.
The experts say climate change is negatively impacting on the sustainability and resilience of the marine ecosystem, diminishing erosion protection and natural barriers that protect against storm surges and rising sea levels. This is impacting sectors like tourism and fisheries, which directly depend upon the quality of the marine environment.
The coastal and marine ecosystems of the Caribbean are among the most threatened in the world. CARICOM is hoping that by strengthening relations with friendly governments, it can ensure the prudent management and use of those resources.
This booklet provides examples of climate-smart systems by showcasing some FAO success stories in various countries. The cases have been selected from the FAO Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) Sourcebook launched in 2013 to show the diversity of potential options across different regions and agricultural systems also covering subjects such as biodiversity and gender.
Development goals that focus on the root causes of sustainability challenges bring people together; they also minimise the risk that goals will interfere with each other. But highlighting a single environmental driving factor such as climate change can be counter-productive.
Adaptation predates climate concern
“If development goals aim for adaptation only, without aiming for disaster risk reduction across all hazards, then resilience cannot be achieved.”
And such actions were indeed being implemented — as part of disaster risk reduction for all hazards — long before climate change became a major concern. If goals seek reduced disaster risk across all hazards, including climate-related ones, then adaptation is incorporated by definition.
For instance, rather than proposed Goal 13.1 being to “strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate induced hazards and natural disasters in all countries”, it could say “strengthen disaster risk reduction in all countries”. If development goals aim for adaptation only, without aiming for disaster risk reduction across all hazards, then resilience cannot be achieved.
What does this mean in practical terms? Hospitals ought to be built outside floodplains that are likely to expand due to climate change. But they could still collapse in the next earthquake — so they should be multi-hazard resilient, not just adapted to climate change. That requires goals encompassing, but extending beyond, adaptation.
Failing in Haiti
Are these concerns visible in reality? In a forthcoming paper, GodfreyBaldacchino and I use Haiti as an example of a climate change focus —nationally and internationally — failing to address underlying sustainability concerns. 
Before the 2010 earthquake, Haiti had prepared a National Adaptation Programme of Action for the UN and created a climate change division within the Ministry of the Environment. We can never know whether this focus on climate change distracted from preparedness for other hazards such as earthquakes.
But we do know that Haiti’s underdevelopment, and the exploitation of its people and natural resources by external powers, led to systemic, engrained disaster risk — including from climate-related hazards and hazard drivers. Poor governance, poverty, inequity and lack of livelihood choices contributed to that risk. We also know that solving chronic political problems of resource sharing, power relations and corruption could support disaster risk reduction, including adaptation.
How does this happen? When people have the power and resources to collaborate within their community, become involved in political and decision-making processes, and make their own life and livelihood choices, they often start calling for and implementing disaster risk reduction measures. Haiti has never been given that chance.
Conversely, mitigation and adaptation can contribute to development and sustainability, but never give the complete picture. They do not have to address the full range of drivers that fuel poverty, such as power relations and inequity. It would be just as counterproductive to aim to make Haiti entirely earthquake-resistant without considering climate change.
Integration not isolation
We could write development goals for every hazard and hazard driver. But that detracts from goals supporting sustainability irrespective of any hazard or hazard driver.
Isolating climate change, making it a field unto itself with goals unto itself, can backfire by neglecting wider sustainability topics.
Placing climate change within the wider contexts of disaster, development and sustainability will tackle both adaptation and mitigation, but not at the expense of other concerns. No sector should neglect climate change and no sector should be dominated by climate change.
Ilan Kelman is a reader in risk, resilience and global health at the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction and the Institute for Global Health, University College London, United Kingdom. He can be contacted viahttp://www.ilankelman.org/contact.html and @IlanKelman
Over 80 percent of the Caribbean Sea is polluted from land-based sources and activities such as deforestation, untreated waste-water, oil spills, agricultural runoff, farm waste and litter. This affects livelihoods, health, economies and ecosystems.
To address these problems, pollution experts from across the Caribbean met recently at two meetings.
The seventh steering committee meeting for the Regional Activity Centre — Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Information and Training Centre for the Wider Caribbean (RAC-REMPEITC). That May 20-12 meeting in Curacao focused on an oil spill protocol for the region.
The second meeting was of the scientific, technical and advisory committee (STAC), to the protocol concerning pollution from land-based sources and activities (LBS STAC 2).The June 1-14 meeting in Nicaragua, which was hosted by UNEP’s Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP CEP), was being staged for the second year.
Key recommendations included:
UNEP CEP and the government of Curacao agreed to the continued hosting of the regional activity centre in Curacao that supports the protocol concerning cooperation in combating oil spills in the wider Caribbean region (oil spills protocol).
UNEP CEP and partners to promote the integration of oil spill disaster planning into national disaster planning processes by working with regional disaster agencies such as Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA)
UNEP CEP to work with oil spill regional centre to provide technical support to countries affected by oil pollution including dispersants and rehabilitating areas contaminated with oil.
UNEP CEP to develop stronger partnerships with the GPNM (global partnership on nutrient management) to improve nutrient management within the wider Caribbean region.
UNEP CEP and partner agencies to develop activities which will enhance the implementation of the LBS Protocol with specific reference to ship generated waste, air pollution and pre-treatment of industrial effluent found in domestic waste-water.
Christopher Corbin, programme officer for the assessment and management of environmental pollution at UNEP CEP, noted that these meetings were critical to evaluate the status of pollution in the region and to identify future priorities.
Nelson Andrade Colmenares, the regional coordinator for UNEP’s Caribbean Environment Programme, stressed that “currently 50 percent of coral reefs are in decline within the region.” However, he added that “with continued stakeholder engagement, cooperation and action this trend can be reversed allowing the region to prosper for generations to come.”
The recommendations from the technical meetings will be presented to the thirteenth meeting of the contracting parties to the convention for the protection and development of the wider Caribbean region, which will be held in Cartagena, Colombia.
In this International Year of Small Island Developing States, ocean, seas and biodiversity have been listed as priority areas. Management of pollution can be addressed by education, stakeholder engagement and a commitment to tackling these issues and it is anticipated that these regional and global efforts will result in action.
Credit: Caribbean News Now!
The 9th International Convention on Environment and Development will be held in Havana, Cuba on July 8-12, 2013, under the slogan “urge a major change for the future we want”. The convention, which is aimed at researchers, decision-makers, teachers, specialists, managers, entrepreneurs, and the general public, started in 1997, five years after the landmark United Nations “Conference on Environment and Development” (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit.
The ninth staging of the gathering comes a year after the staging of the momentous Rio+20 Summit. Its main objective is to promote integration, implementation, and coherence between what must be done and what was identified for action at recent international conventions and summits.
The Convention is organized in groups for congresses and colloquiums, covering many current environmental contents. There will be 6 congresses on Climate Change, Environmental Education, Protected Areas; Environmental Management, Management of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, and Law and Environmental Justice, and four colloquiums on Environmental management, Sustainable Land Management, Environmental Regulation, and Transport and Environment.
In addition, renowned national and international experts will give lectures and roundtable discussions on priority environmental issues. An exhibition fair associated with technologies, environmental projects and experiences will be also held. Independent professional contributions are also strongly encouraged.
Find out how to register for this conference here.
The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is within the United Nations Environment Programme, says 75% of consumers surveyed worldwide are aware of biodiversity, while 48% can give a correct definition of the term biodiversity. These are some of the findings contained in the 2013 Biodiversity Barometer report launched today in Paris by the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT). Consumers in Brazil, China and France, according to the study, show a particular awareness about biodiversity.
“The Biodiversity Barometer is an important source of information on global trends in biodiversity awareness. The results not only demonstrate a growing consciousness, they also show that respecting biodiversity provides tremendous opportunities for business around the world” said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary for the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Very high biodiversity awareness in China
This year’s special focus on China reveals interesting results: Apart from a very high biodiversity awareness (94%), Chinese consumers surveyed also show high knowledge of biodiversity: 64% could define correctly what biodiversity means. “The survey results do not come as a surprise. In recent years, the government as well as civil society organizations in China has undertaken tremendous activities for communicating and raising awareness of biodiversity issues” says Zhang Wenguo, Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People’s Republic of China.
Biodiversity offers branding opportunities
Responses to the question “What are the three brands you consider are making the most efforts to respect biodiversity?” were manifold and often country-specific: In Brazil, there is a clear leader with Natural (49%). In the USA, most mentioned food brands, including Kraft, Starbucks and Ben & Jerry’s. UK has two leading companies: Bodyshop and CO-OP (23% and 20%). In France Yves Rocher, Nestle and Danone top the list, while in China the perceived leaders are Yili, Mengliu and Amway. “There are clear opportunities for brands to position themselves around the issue of biodiversity, and anticipate increasing consumer interest on this issue” concludes Rémy Oudghiri, Director of Trends and Insights at IPSOS.
Biodiversity reporting is growing, but still weak
“Today 32 of the top 100 beauty companies in the world refer to biodiversity in their corporate communications such as sustainability reporting and websites. This is considerably higher than in 2009, but much lower than what we found in the top 100 food companies” says Rik Kutsch Lojenga, Executive Director of UEBT. In 2013, 87% of consumers say they want to be better informed about how companies source their natural ingredients, and a large majority of consumers say they would to boycott brands that do not take good care of environmental or ethical trade practices in its sourcing and production processes.
Youth is the future of biodiversity
For brands interested in reaching consumers on biodiversity, the 2013 Biodiversity Barometer offers the following insights: Young people tend to have the highest awareness of biodiversity (80%), as well as more affluent and well-educated people. Traditional media remain by and large the key sources of awareness: 51% of all surveyed consumers learned about biodiversity through television, 33% through newspapers and magazines.
On the UEBT Biodiversity Barometer
The UEBT Barometer provides insights on evolving biodiversity awareness among consumers and how the beauty industry reports on biodiversity. It also illustrates the progress towards achieving the targets of the Strategic Plan of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and its results will be reflected in the next edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook as a midway point analysis of the achievement of those targets. Since its first edition in 2009, the global research organisation IPSOS, on behalf of UEBT, has interviewed 31,000 consumers in 11 countries (Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, UK and USA). In 2013, the biodiversity barometer survey was conducted among 6,000 consumers in six countries – Brazil, China, France, Germany, UK and USA.
The Union for Ethical BioTrade
The Union for Ethical BioTrade is a non-profit association that promotes the ‘Sourcing with Respect’ of ingredients that come from biodiversity. Members, which include many beauty companies, commit to gradually ensuring that their sourcing practices promote the conservation of biodiversity, respect traditional knowledge, and assure the equitable sharing of benefits all along the supply chain.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
Opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and entering into force in December 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty for the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of the components of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. With 193 Parties, the Convention has near universal participation among countries. The Convention seeks to address all threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, including threats from climate change, through scientific assessments, the development of tools, incentives and processes, the transfer of technologies and good practices and the full and active involvement of relevant stakeholders including indigenous and local communities, youth, NGOs, women and the business community. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is a subsidiary agreement to the Convention. It seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.To date, 163 countries plus the European Union have ratified the Cartagena Protocol.
The Secretariat of the Convention and its Cartagena Protocol is located in Montreal.
For more information visit: http://www.cbd.int.For more information, please visit: http://www.ethicalbiotrade.org. You may also visit: http://www.ethicalbiotrade.org and contact Union for Ethical BioTrade bia phone at +31-20-223-4567 or email using firstname.lastname@example.org
*** From the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
Environmental Psychologist and Geographer Dr. Stefanie Baasch says uncertainties about climate change impacts, especially at the local and regional level, could drive inaction. Read more in her exclusive contribution to Caribbean Climate.
Adaptation to climate change is a new and challenging task on the political agendas. Developing strategies and measures for
adaptation are not easy to find because adaptation takes place under conditions of uncertainty, complexity and dynamic developments. On the scientific level there are still deep uncertainties in predicting climate change impacts especially at the local and regional scale.
Also, climate change impacts may interact with each other and may furthermore have a greater adverse effect when acting together compared to when they’re acting in isolation. But even if this data would be available in the future, adaptation still remains challenging because of its high complexity and its dependence on dynamic and interacting societal and natural framework conditions. For example, adaptation capacities are highly dependent on economic and demographic developments.
Simultaneously, adaptation is closely linked to local adaptation needs which are based on locally diverse vulnerabilities. This means that adaptation not only calls for strategies which are focusing on changing natural conditions, but also for integrative strategies that takes both societal and natural conditions into account. Adaptation to climate change is a cross cutting issue that interacts with and influences many policy fields, including nature protection, biodiversity and societal development.
From a psychological perspective, dealing with uncertainties is difficult because people in general feel much more comfortable in decision-making based on certainties, as such uncertainty could lead to justifying inaction. Therefore, dealing with these uncertainties is a crucial task for adaptation to climate change. This includes methodological developments and implementation of flexible approaches which enables stakeholders and decision makers to find solutions and strategies towards adaptation.
Effective and efficient adaptation is calling for governance approaches that involves both public and private actors in the process. The integration of regional and local knowledge and the high local responsibility for supporting and implementing adaptation measures will foster cooperation needs between a variety of actors. Adaptation to climate change is a policy challenge which consists of balancing multi scale, short- mid- and long-term and conflict-ridden (e.g. water and land use) factors.
In general, adaptation is much more a continuous social learning process in which a wide range of actors (policy makers, sectoral stakeholders, citizens, NGOs, researchers etc.) define options for adaptation and negotiate their priorities. That means, adaptation needs methods which are addressing or enabling such social learning processes between diverse actors and therefore have to be participatory and inclusive.
Dr. Baasch is a senior researcher at the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Department of Environmental Politics currently conducting research in Belize on how NGOs and other key actors, including community based organizations integrate adaptation to climate change in their programs, as well as how they are producing and integrating different kinds of knowledge about local adaptation needs. This study is supported by a travel grant from the Fritz Thyssen Foundation in Germany.