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Commonwealth brainstorms climate change responses

The Commonwealth is bringing together global experts to thrash out new ideas for not just reducing climate change but actually reversing its effects by mimicking success stories in nature.

At a two-day gathering on Friday and Saturday at the 52-country organisation’s headquarters in London, a diverse band of experts in fields such as biomimicry, carbon sequestration, design and regeneration traded ideas for practical schemes that could pull carbon out of the air and put it back into the Earth.

Rather than a series of presentations, the conference instead saw experts from around the world huddle in groups to brainstorm.

A Commonwealth gathering in London will bring together experts in biomimicry, carbon sequestration, design and regeneration, to discuss ideas for practical s...

A Commonwealth gathering in London will bring together experts in biomimicry, carbon sequestration, design and regeneration, to discuss ideas for practical schemes that could pull carbon out of the air and put it back into the Earth ©Greg Baker (AFP/File)

“Some of our island states in the Pacific and the Caribbean will be hit first and potentially disappear, therefore climate change has been an issue of real importance to the Commonwealth,” Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland told AFP.

– Termite mound buildings –

Examples were shared of concrete absorbing carbon, ecologically destroyed landscapes flourishing again through getting carbon back into the soil, and getting more productive agriculture through mimicking the ecosystems of wild, untended land.

There were discussions on buildings designed like termite mounds that ventilate themselves with cool air, or making ships’ hulls like shark skin.

Also mooted were vertical axis wind turbines arranged in school-of-fish formation so the ones behind gain momentum from the vortices, creating far more wind power than regular wind farms.

“It’s stunning, but this is not inventing anything new. Life’s been at it for 3.8 billion years,” biomimicry expert Janine Benyus told AFP.

“We’re talking about bringing carbon home — rebalancing the problem of too much carbon in the air and not enough in the soil,” she added, stepping out of a workshop.

With its diverse membership covering a quarter of the world’s countries, action within the Commonwealth often paves the way for wider global agreements.

The climate change accords reached at its biennial summit in Malta last December were instrumental in the Paris COP21 UN climate conference deal struck later that month, which agreed to cap global warming at less than two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

– ‘Practical, practical, practical’ –

Scotland will take forward ideas and outcomes from the London workshop to the COP22 summit in Marrakesh in November.

“We’re setting off the starter pistol for this race,” the secretary-general said.

“The Commonwealth is seeking to be the platform through which ideas can be transferred.

However, in the arena of climate change, many intriguing proposals get ditched on the grounds of cost, practicality or fears that they could end up inflicting environmental damage.

“We’re looking at how we can share real solutions and help each other to get there faster,” said Scotland.

“We’re saying ‘practical, practical, practical’. If it works, it’s affordable, implementable and makes the difference, then we need people to understand they can believe in it.”

Some sessions focused on so-called big picture ideas, looking at Earth as a complete system.

Delegates discussed how carbon can be used as a resource, in which returning it to the ground can bring about lasting soil fertility and jobs and thereby political stability.

“Life creates conditions conducive to life. It’s about creating new virtuous circles rather than vicious ones,” said Daniel Wahl, who designs regenerative cultures.

“If we do a good job, we can find the funding because the will is there,” he told AFP.

“The time of ‘them and us’ thinking is past. The people who were against each other now have to come together.

“People are dying today from the effects of climate change. To them, it’s not an intellectual debate any more.”

New high for global greenhouse gas emissions

New high for global greenhouse gas emissions ©Simon MALFATTO, Paz PIZARRO (AFP)

Credit: Daily Mail Online

World Day to Combat Desertification

UN Decade on Biodiversity

The land under our feet is ancient. Minerals and organic material have mixed together over decades, if not centuries and millennia, to provide the bed upon which our food is grown. The plants which grow in this soil are not only the basis for food and fibre they are also contribute to our supply of clean water and are a storage place for carbon. Land is the key for life and livelihoods today.

As the global population increases in the years to come, and as climate change affects the availability of water, with consequences for water and food security, land will become even more important. Dry lands hold a significant proportion of the world’s soil carbon stock, and land degradation contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable land management is therefore a key climate change mitigation strategy.

Biodiversity conservation and sustainable land management will be critical for managing our ecosystems so that they can support improved water security for food production as well as being more resilient to climate change.

Ecosystem-based adaptation, which integrates biodiversity and ecosystem services into an overall adaptation strategy, can be cost-effective and generate social, economic and cultural co-benefits. This approach can contribute to the conservation of biodiversity while providing climate change adaptation benefits.

The Tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, held 2010 in Japan, adopted the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and twenty Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which provide a framework for biodiversity conservation, ecosystem restoration and sustainable land management.

In particular, I would like to highlight Aichi Biodiversity Target 15 which calls for the enhancement of the resilience of ecosystems and the restoration of at least 15% of degraded ecosystems, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to combating desertification. Also relevant are: Target 5 which aims that by 2020, the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation and fragmentation is significantly reduced; Target 7, which calls for areas under agriculture, aquaculture and forestry to be managed sustainably, ensuring conservation of biodiversity; and, Target 14, which aims that by 2020, ecosystems that provide essential services, including services related to water, and contribute to health, livelihoods and well-being, are restored and safeguarded, taking into account the needs of women, indigenous and local communities and the poor and vulnerable.

As sister Rio Conventions, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification have many areas of convergence, the most significant being the work to conserve, restore and sustainably utilize dry-land ecosystems. In fact, the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets provide strong bases for implementing the synergies between the two Conventions at the national level.

As we prepare to celebrate the World Day to Combat Desertification let us strive for sustainable strategies that integrate the management of land, water and biodiversity through sustaining ecosystem services. In this way we can combat desertification, help adapt to climate change and achieve the goals of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.

Credit: United Nations Decade on Biodiversity
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