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UNEP ‘Our Planet’ 2015 Focuses on SDGs

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Credit: UNEP

An integrated, universal approach to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 development agenda is essential, according to the 2015 issue of ‘Our Planet,’ a publication from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner discusses the importance of integration, universality, climate change mitigation, governance and accountability, and financing. He writes that linking the SDGs with climate change mitigation will help countries build energy-efficient, low-carbon infrastructure and achieve sustainable development.

In an article by Tommy Remengesau, Jr., President, Palau, he explains that healthy, productive, resilient oceans are critical to preserving and restoring the balance between humans and nature, and ensuring economic prosperity, food security, health and culture, particularly in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Remengesau advocates for a stand-alone SDG on oceans, and says Palau’s national conservation efforts must be “amplified and augmented by work at the international level” in order to make a difference.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights should guide the elaboration of the SDGs, writes Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. He stresses that human rights, such as the rights to education, food, health and water, are about empowerment, not charity, and underscores the importance of empowering citizens to be involved in crafting and implementing the SDGs. He adds that “universality applies not just to universal application, but also to universal participation and ownership of the goals.”

UK Environmental Audit Select Committee Chair Joan Walley cautions that reducing the number of SDGs “risks relegating environmental sustainability to a side issue,” and could shatter “the carefully negotiated consensus.” She also argues for communicating the goals to the public, particularly youth.

Other articles address: the European Commission’s (EC) energy and climate framework, which will promote a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy; the UN Environment Assembly’s (UNEA) role in moving towards an integrated, universal approach to the SDGs; the role of central banks in shifting towards inclusive, environmentally sustainable development; a carbon pricing system; national accounting systems and inequalities; and chemicals and hazardous substances, among other issues.

The issue also highlights the Montreal Protocol as an “ozone success” and a model for achieving a green economy and the SDGs, achievements by UNEP’s Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI), and the UNEP Finance Initiative’s work to align the financial system with a low-carbon, carbon resilient green economy. [Publication: Our Planet: Time for Global Action]

Credit: SIDS Policy & Practice

Global Islands’ Vulnerability Research, Adaptation, Policy and Development (GIVRAPD) Project

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Farming has long been a mainstay of St Lucia’s economy but for one grower living in the hills of Soufrière there’s no telling how long it can be a source of income. Climate change is altering the environmental balance, tipping life on the land into even greater uncertainty.

“You don’t know when to plant and when to not plant. When you’re waiting for rain, you’re not getting rain. When you’re waiting for sun, you’re not getting sun,” the farmer says.

Townspeople are also still struggling with the fallout from environmental disasters years after severe storms have made their deadly sweeps through the region.

“For me, around here it’s not safe anymore. When it’s raining I leave. For me, it hasn’t stopped,” a survivor of 2010’s Hurricane Tomas says.

But the residents of Soufrière are not alone. Half a world away, islanders in communities across the Indian Ocean are facing similar environmental upheavals and working out ways to cope with them. Each community has much to learn from the others and GIVRAPD – the Global Islands’ Vulnerability Research Adaptation Policy Development research project – makes that sharing possible. GIVRAPD is a unique project that overcomes great physical distances to tie together the experience of four small island communities – two in the Caribbean (St Lucia and Jamaica) and two in the Indian Ocean (Mauritius and Seychelles).

It’s just one more way that INTASAVE is helping developing countries access resources and knowledge elsewhere in the global South.

Over two years, researchers will catalogue the vast range of socioeconomic, governance and environmental conditions that make island towns and villages particularly vulnerable to climate change. Through dozens of interviews with residents, the team will define the risks ahead and what stands in the way of adaptation. Whether its agriculture, fishing or tourism, researchers will look for the specific factors that determine whether those economies have a future.

The team will also chart the likely changes in the environment and, together with a cross-section of community representatives, map ways residents can continue to earn a living in the long term. The broader goal is to give townspeople the information they need to make their own decisions.

In addition, the team will investigate the viability of weather-related micro-insurance as a safeguard for low-income residents against disastrous losses.

The project, funded by the Climate Development Knowledge Network, is being led by INTASAVE in partnership with the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University. Contributions will also come from four other universities, including the University of Mauritius and the African Climate and Development Initiative based at the University of Cape Town.

For more information contact: admin@intasave.org and see the website: www.givrapd.org

PROJECT SUMMARY

Environmental Psychologist: Uncertainty Drives Inaction on Climate Adaptation

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

Environmental Psychologist and Geographer Dr. Stefanie Baasch

Environmental Psychologist and Geographer Dr. Stefanie Baasch

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. 

Tell us what you think of Dr. Baasch’s commentary in the comment box below. To contribute to Caribbean Climate email: Tyrone Hall at thall@caribbeanclimate.bz.

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