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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

Caribbean Coral Reef Leaders Complete Intensive Fellowship at the Great Barrier Reef

Credits: Environmental Graffiti

Photo Credit: Environmental Graffiti

Coral reefs in the Caribbean are amongst the most at risk globally. The loss of reefs is also a serious economic problem in the region, where large populations depend on fishing and tourism. Having lost 80% of its corals over the last half century, mainly due to a changing and variable climate, coastal development and pollution, the Caribbean is seeking to turn the tide through partnerships. A group of five coral reef managers from across the Caribbean recently participated in an intensive three week Coral Reef Management Fellowship programme at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia – the best managed reef in the world.

The Caribbean contingent was among a group of 12 fellows, including their peers from the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The Caribbean fellows are: Roland Baldeo (Grenada), Andrea Donaldson and Christine O’Sullivan (Jamaica), Michelle Kalamandeen (Guyana) and Andrew Lockhart (St. Vincent and the Grenadines).

The fellows visited government departments, research stations, farms, schools and other reef-associated operations. They experienced the Great Barrier Reef and many facets of catchment to reef management through direct interactions with a diversity of land and sea habitats, scientists, managers, farmers, educators, media, volunteers and industry leaders. The Fellowship also included home-stays with local marine scientists as part of a cultural exchange.

This was a rare and valuable experience as it brought together coral reef managers from diverse locations to gain and share expertise. Dr Kenrick Leslie, Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, welcomed the successful completion of the fellowship, noting:

“This is an excellent programme to boost understanding of marine protected areas and the role it can play in sustainable development. It gives our people an opportunity to see how effective coral reef management is done in another community. Importantly, they are gaining insights from the major work being done to rectify some of the issues with the world’s longest barrier reef. It’s a unique experience.”

Citing the fellows’ exposure to an intensive leadership course at Orpheus Island Research Station, which included theory and exercises to plan, problem solve and teamwork, Dr Leslie urged the fellows to be agents of change across the Caribbean.

“At this point in our development it is important that we ensure that whatever we do, we do not make the assumption that resources are unlimited and that all our actions are resilient and our environment is protected,” Dr Leslie added.

The Caribbean and Pacific fellows are part of an Australia Awards Fellowship programme funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, titled Improving coral reef management for sustainable development in the Caribbean and Pacific. Australia Awards are prestigious international Scholarships and Fellowships funded by the Australian Government to build capacity and strengthen partnerships. The programme supports short-term study, research and professional development opportunities in Australia for mid-career professionals and emerging leaders.

The fellowship programme was organised and hosted by Reef Ecologic, an environmental consulting company with expertise on coral reef management, which was founded by former Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority employees Dr Adam Smith and Dr Paul Marshall.

“We have observed the decline of coral reefs globally and we recognized that training of future leaders is essential for turning the tide towards a more sustainable future. Australia is the world leader in coral reef conservation and marine resource management. This Fellowship is a chance to share Australia’s expertise with the world,” said Dr Marshall.

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The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre coordinates the region’s response to climate change. Officially opened in August 2005, the Centre is the key node for information on climate change issues and the region’s response to managing and adapting to climate change. We maintain the Caribbean’s most extensive repository of information and data on climate change specific to the region, which in part enables us to provide climate change-related policy advice and guidelines to CARICOM member states through the CARICOM Secretariat. In this role, the Centre is recognized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Environment Programme, and other international agencies as the focal point for climate change issues in the Caribbean. The Centre is also a United Nations Institute for Training and Research recognised Centre of Excellence, one of an elite few. Learn more about how we’re working to make the Caribbean more climate resilient by perusing The Implementation Plan.

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What do leaders of Small Island Developing States say about living with climate change?

Kiran Sura, CDKN’s Head of Advocacy Fund, reviews discussions from the CDKN side event at the Third United Nations Conference for Small Island Developing States. In a related blog, “Island voices, global choices,”  she highlights major currents in the SIDS Summit as a whole.

CDKN and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre led a lively discussion among Small Island Developing States (SIDS) representatives on how to join climate science with action on the ground for climate-resilient economies, at the Third United Nations Conference for Small Island Developing States, in Apia, Samoa, earlier this month. The conversation focused on getting ‘the right information to the right people at the right time’ to manage climate-related disaster risks and foster climate-smart development planning in small islands. To read more on the discussions, please view this background feature, “Island voices, global choices”: reviewing the UN conference on Small Island Developing States.

Representatives from government, businesses, third sector organisations and civil society attended the launch of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report: What’s in it for Small Island Developing States? – a guide from CDKN and the Overseas Development Institute. The guide succinctly distils the richest material from the Fifth Assessment Report to raise awareness of what climate change means for these states and is part of a larger communications toolkit produced by CDKN on the report.

Hon. Faamoetauloa Lealaialoto Taito Dr. Faale Tumaalii, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment for Samoa, welcomed the report and encouraged individuals to share how they are using scientific information to deliver sustainable development and action on climate change. Dr. Kenrick Leslie, Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, then led a panel of distinguished speakers to discuss how they are using the latest scientific, environmental, economic and social information to address climate change, prepare for climate disasters and in international climate negotiations.

Dr. Elizabeth Carabine of CDKN outlined the key findings from the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report: What’s in it for Small Island Developing States? highlighting how the IPCC has gone further than ever before on presenting the causes, consequences and responses to climate change across SIDS. Whilst the SIDS share common challenges, the type and scale of impacts will vary across SIDS in the Pacific, the Caribbean and Indian Ocean regions. What is applicable across the islands, regardless of geography, is that climate change approaches should be integrated with sustainable development, energy and disaster risk approaches to enable the islands to achieve the economies of scale to attract finance, exploit synergies and deliver real change.

Dr. Neville Trotz, Deputy Director for the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, discussed the Caribbean’s regional framework for delivering climate resilient development and how they propose to implement this plan; however, ‘red tape’ has prevented the region from taking action as quickly as they would have liked. Slow progress not only increases the region’s vulnerability to climate impacts, but it also means the evidence underpinning the case for action and attracting finance can very quickly become outdated. This is in addition to the challenge of downscaling projections from global climate models to deliver meaningful insights.

Evaipomana Tu’holoaki, from the International Federation for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), discussed how the evidence confirms that climate change is increasing disaster risk for millions of the world’s most vulnerable people, especially those living in SIDS. However, whilst ‘the science’ is the foundation of action, translation is needed to ensure people have the right information at the right time, and to increase awareness and preparedness. A range of innovative partnerships from across the Pacific region demonstrate how communities and states are working together to strengthen resilience and preparedness as a first line of defence for vulnerable people in risk-prone countries. Looking to the future, the IFRC will be scaling up humanitarian response and preparedness, and will continue to reduce risk through better understanding and implementation of early warning information and systems at the national, regional and community level.

Olai Uludong, the Chief Climate Change Negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States, noted that as international climate negotiations enter a critical period, the timely findings of the Fifth Assessment Report have reinforced the case for immediate and ambitious action to curb emissions to give the world a fighting chance of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius. The ‘science’ is used to formulate negotiating positions, and the findings of the report will be a critical input for developing Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, which all Parties must submit in advance of talks in Paris next year.

These panel presentations stimulated much discussion from the audience, with contributions addressing the importance of civil society in implementing climate information, the role of traditional and local knowledge in adapting to climate change in SIDS and the need for greater awareness within society to effect change at leadership level. Discussion also focussed around the negotiations process and how the latest scientific evidence can support SIDS’ positions at the upcoming UNFCCC CoPs in Lima and Paris.

Whilst there is overwhelming and growing evidence that SIDS are amongst the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and amongst the least responsible for causing the warming we are experiencing, progress in securing a global climate agreement has been frustratingly slow. However, Dr. Leslie remarked on the importance of climate change being framed as a sustainable development issue, rather than a purely environmental one, and, as Hon Faamoetauloa Lealaialoto Taito Dr. Faale Tumaalii stated in his closing remarks, SIDS are not doing nothing. He used the Majuro Declaration, launched at last year’s Pacific Island Forum Summit, as an example of how the islands are taking on an important leadership role, and encouraged all to continue to makes the voices of SIDS heard until real progress is achieved.

Credit: Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)

Caribbean energy experts recommend creation of new Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE)

SIDS Press release logos

The technical design and institutional set-up of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE) was successfully validated by energy experts and specialists of CARICOM Member States in a regional workshop, held from 21 to 22 July 2014 in Roseau, Dominica. The event was co-organized by the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Sustainable Energy Initiative – SIDS DOCK, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica, with financial support of the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC).

The workshop follows-up on the official request of SIDS DOCK to UNIDO in August 2013, to assist the small island developing states in the Caribbean, Pacific, Indian Ocean and Africa, in the creation of a SIDS network of regional sustainable energy centres. With technical assistance from UNIDO, a consultative preparatory process for the Caribbean centre was launched in close coordination with the Energy Unit of the CARICOM Secretariat. The process included the development of a needs assessment and project document on the technical and institutional design of the centre. With the inputs received at the regional workshop, the needs assessment and the project document on the technical and institutional design of the centre will be finalized.

It was recommended to create CCREEE under the umbrella of the existing institutional framework of CARICOM. It was agreed to submit the final CCREEE project document for consideration by the next Ministerial Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) of CARICOM. It was suggested to launch a competitive selection process for the host country of the Secretariat of CCREEE.

Prime Minister of Dominica, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, endorsed the establishment of the CCREEE, and announced Dominica’s interest in hosting the centre. “Dominica has the highest percentage of renewable energy (RE) in its energy mix among the Caribbean countries, therefore, Dominica would be the ideal location,” he said.  By 2017, Dominica will become the only Small Island Developing State to export electricity. A partnership between the Government of Dominica and a French Consortium will develop a geothermal power plant for export and subsea transmission lines to French neighbours – Guadeloupe to the north, and Martinique to the south.

Ambassador Vince Henderson, Permanent Representative of the Commonwealth of Dominica to the United Nations, and Chair of the SIDS DOCK Steering Committee, who spearheaded the initiative for the establishment of regional RE and EE centres, expressed gratitude on behalf of the small island developing states to the government of  for providing the funding for the establishment of the regional centres in the Pacific and the Caribbean and the support to African SIDS through the ECREEE. “The establishment of regional centres for RE and EE is one of the most progressive steps that UNIDO, SIDS DOCK and our governments can take towards the transitioning from fossil fuels to RE, and CCREEE will work with regional institutions, like the OECS, CARICOM, CREDP and CDB, to pool human and financial resources to transform the regional energy sector,” he noted.

Dr. Pradeep Monga, Director of the Energy and Climate Change Branch of UNIDO, said the importance of the regional energy centre is to boost inclusive and sustainable industrial development in Caribbean islands. “The centre will play an important role in empowering the local private sector and industry to take advantage of growing job and business opportunities in the sustainable energy sector,” Mr. Monga stressed.

The over 60 Caribbean experts and specialists, development and private sector partners in attendance recommended that the centre focuses particularly on policy implementation, capacity development, knowledge management, awareness raising and the creation of business opportunities for the local sustainable energy industry. The centre will act as a think-tank and hub for sustainable energy and will play a key role in creating economies of scale and a competitive sustainable energy market and business sector. It will address existing barriers and strengthen drivers through regional methodologies and tools. It will act as the central service provider for the development and implementation of SIDS DOCK and Sustainable Energy For All (SE4ALL) activities.

The centre will become part of UNIDO´s Global Network of Regional Sustainable Energy Centres. The SIDS centres will be announced as an innovative south-south partnership at the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, scheduled to take place from 1 to 4 September 2014 in Apia, Samoa.

Further information on the workshop is available at: http://www.ccreee.org

For more information:

Mr Al Binger, Energy Advisor, CARICOM Climate Change Centre, abinger@sidsdock.org

Mr Martin Lugmayr, Sustainable Energy Expert, UNIDO, m.lugmayr@unido.org

5Cs Leads South-South Cooperation in Pacific

Sprep PhotoExecutive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre Dr Kenrick Leslie, CBE, recently  led a team of experts from the Caribbean to the Pacific in a bid to strengthen existing South-South collaboration with the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

The SPREP and the Centre signed a wide-ranging MOU in 2011 that paves the way for work to be done to make the two regions climate resilient.

“Like the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean islands are small in size, vulnerable to climate change and the lives of our people  are based on utilising natural resources,” said Dr Leslie.

Over the last five years the 5Cs executed over 16 climate change projects across the Caribbean at a cost of approximately US$45 million, much of which is of a similar nature to that which SPREP has been undertaking in the Pacific.

Read more via SomoaObserver

UNISDR Policy Analysis of Disaster Management and Climate Adaptation in the Pacific

YardEdge

YardEdge

The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Secretariat (UNISDR) has released a study on disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CAA) in the Pacific, titled “Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in the Pacific: an institutional and policy analysis.” The study analyzes the level of integration of DRR and CCA activities across the region.

DRR is the concept and practice of reducing disaster risks through analysis and management of their causal factors. It reduces exposure to hazards, lessens the vulnerability of people and assets, and improves management of the land and environment and preparedness for adverse events (UNISDR, 2009).

CAA is defined by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCCC) as ‘adjustments in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects that moderate harm and exploit beneficial opportunities. This can include: (a) adapting development to gradual changes in average temperature, sea level and precipitation; and (b) reducing and managing the risks associated with more frequent, severe and unpredictable  extreme weather events” (UNISDR, 2010).

The 67-page report includes analysis of seven Pacific island countries: the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Palau, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu. The results indicate that despite the low level of integration at the operational level, countries are making efforts to develop Joint National Action Plans for DRR and CCA.

The report says there is strong evidence of an increase in the observed frequency and intensity of weather and climate-related hazards. An assertion buttressed by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change IPCC), which anticipates that in the short to medium term many impacts of climate change may manifest themselves through changes in the frequency, intensity or duration of extreme weather events. Having made these observations, the report makes an urgent call for a paradigm shift in DRR noting that the recent Global Assessment Report on DRR shows that mortality and economic loss risk are heavily concentrated in developing countries, disproportionately affecting the poor and posing a real threat to the achievement of the MDGs.

The report also outlines challenges and barriers to integration, highlights evolving good practice towards integration, and provides recommendations for regional and national stakeholders for further action. Key recommendations include: the establishment and maintenance of a database of DRR, CCA and related projects, and a database of Pacific-focused case studies and good practices; to co-convene meetings on disaster risk management (DRM) and CCA at times and locations that maximize coordination and integration opportunities; to develop an integrated Pacific Regional Policy Framework for DRM, CCA and mitigation for implementation post-2015; and for donors, Pacific island governments, nongovernmental and relevant regional organisations to work collectively and promote greater integration of DRR and CCA.

The study was produced in collaboration with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), with resources from the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Peruse the full report here.

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