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A new study has predicted that if current trends continue and the world fails to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, nearly all of the world’s coral reefs, including many in the Caribbean, will suffer severe bleaching — the gravest threat to one of the Earth’s most important ecosystems — on annual basis.
The finding is part of a study funded by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners, which reviewed new climate change projections to predict which corals will be affected first and at what rate.
The report is published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. Researchers found that the reefs in Taiwan and the Turks and Caicos archipelago will be among the first to experience annual bleaching, followed by reefs off the coast of Bahrain, in Chile and in French Polynesia.
Calling the predictions “a treasure trove” for environmentalists, the head of the UN agency, Erik Solheim, said the projects allow conservationists and governments to prioritise reef protection.
“The projections show us where we still have time to act before it’s too late,” Solheim said.
On average, the reefs started undergoing annual bleaching from 2014, according to the study.
Without the required minimum of five years to regenerate, the annual occurrences will have a deadly effect on the corals and disrupt the ecosystems which they support, UNEP said.
However, it said that if governments act on emission reduction pledges made in the Paris Agreement, which calls on countries to combat climate change and limit global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius, the corals would have another 11 years to adapt to the warming seas.
Between 2014 and 2016, UNEP said the world witnessed the longest global bleaching event recorded.
Among the casualties, it said, was the Great Barrier Reef, with 90 per cent of it bleached and 20 per cent of the reef’s coral killed.
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
International Meeting of the Ecosystem-Based Adaptation Community of Practice
26-27 February 2015 – Lima, Peru
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) REGATTA and Practical Action Latin America are pleased to invite the members of the Ecosystem-Based Adaptation (EbA) Community of Practice to apply for participating on an international meeting to be held on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 February 2015 in the city of Lima, Peru.
The international meeting aims to strengthen the EbA community members’ network. For this, their participants will present and discuss different aspects of their experiences in EbA and will identify initiatives of mutual collaboration.
We are looking for the participation of members that have implemented EbA measures, of practitioners with possibilities of influence in relevant government and technical cooperation projects or programmes, and of those members that have contributed or participated in modules and/or webinars.
The first day of the international meeting the main challenges of EbA measures implementation will be discussed through the presentation of community members’ experiences in parallel sessions. The second day will be centered mainly in the discussion of joint initiatives, sustainable mechanisms for the community and fellowship activities.
The international meeting is open to all participants of the community of practice, but it will be possible to fund the participation of around 30 people. For those interested, please fill the application format and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 19 December 2014 (5 pm Panamá EST) with the subject “EbA Meeting Application”. Early applications will have better chances. Participants receiving funding will be paid transport, accommodation and food costs.
Candidates will be assessed based on the EbA experience they present, on their possibility to influence government and technical cooperation projects or programmes, and on their contribution to the EbA community so far. Any application received after 19 December 2014 will not be considered.
Those interested in participating in the meeting self-financing their costs should send the participation form completed to email@example.com by Friday 16 January 2014 (5 pm Panamá EST) with the subject “EbA Meeting Participation”.
Call : Friday 5 September 2014
Applications deadline : Friday 19 December 2014
Results : Friday 9 January 2015
EbA International Meeting : Thursday 26 and Friday 27 February 2015
With only about one-sixth of the original coral cover left, most Caribbean coral reefs may disappear in the next 20 years, primarily due to the loss of grazers in the region, according to the latest report by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The report, Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012, is the most detailed and comprehensive study of its kind published to date – the result of the work of 90 experts over the course of three years. It contains the analysis of more than 35,000 surveys conducted at 90 Caribbean locations since 1970, including studies of corals, seaweeds, grazing sea urchins and fish.
The results show that the Caribbean corals have declined by more than 50% since the 1970s. But according to the authors, restoring parrotfish populations and improving other management strategies, such as protection from overfishing and excessive coastal pollution, could help the reefs recover and make them more resilient to future climate change impacts.
“The rate at which the Caribbean corals have been declining is truly alarming,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme. “But this study brings some very encouraging news: the fate of Caribbean corals is not beyond our control and there are some very concrete steps that we can take to help them recover.”
Climate change has long been thought to be the main culprit in coral degradation. While it does pose a serious threat by making oceans more acidic and causing coral bleaching, the report shows that the loss of parrotfish and sea urchin – the area’s two main grazers – has, in fact, been the key driver of coral decline in the region. An unidentified disease led to a mass mortality of the sea urchin in 1983 and extreme fishing throughout the 20th century has brought the parrotfish population to the brink of extinction in some regions. The loss of these species breaks the delicate balance of coral ecosystems and allows algae, on which they feed, to smother the reefs.
Reefs protected from overfishing, as well as other threats such as excessive coastal pollution, tourism and coastal development, are more resilient to pressures from climate change, according to the authors.
“Even if we could somehow make climate change disappear tomorrow, these reefs would continue their decline,” says Jeremy Jackson, lead author of the report and IUCN’s senior advisor on coral reefs. “We must immediately address the grazing problem for the reefs to stand any chance of surviving future climate shifts.”
The report also shows that some of the healthiest Caribbean coral reefs are those that harbour vigorous populations of grazing parrotfish. These include the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the northern Gulf of Mexico, Bermuda and Bonaire, all of which have restricted or banned fishing practices that harm parrotfish, such as fish traps and spearfishing. Other countries are following suit.
“Barbuda is about to ban all catches of parrotfish and grazing sea urchins, and set aside one-third of its coastal waters as marine reserves,” says Ayana Johnson of the Waitt Institute’s Blue Halo Initiative which is collaborating with Barbuda in the development of its new management plan. “This is the kind of aggressive management that needs to be replicated regionally if we are going to increase the resilience of Caribbean reefs.”
Reefs where parrotfish are not protected have suffered tragic declines, including Jamaica, the entire Florida Reef Tract from Miami to Key West, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Caribbean is home to 9% of the world’s coral reefs, which are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Caribbean reefs, spanning a total of 38 countries, are vital to the region’s economy. They generate more than US$ 3 billion annually from tourism and fisheries and over a hundred times more in other goods and services, on which more than 43 million people depend.
This video, featuring the report’s lead author Jeremy Jackson, explains the significance of the report:
Peruse the full report.
Credit: The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) office in Panama is seeking a consultant to coordinate activities related to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC): a Latin America and Caribbean regional assessment of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs); and activities to support national planning for action on SLCPs (SNAP). Learn more about this post under the vacancy section of the PNUMA website: http://www.pnuma.org/vacantes/index.php. Expressions of interest are due by 30 June 2014.
See Terms of Reference here.
President Donald Ramotar lauded the work of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC) during his presentation today, to CARICOM Heads of Government during their 25th Inter-Sessional Meeting at the Buccament Bay Resort, Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Leaders agreed to establish a CARICOM Climate Change Task Force to provide guidance to Caribbean climate change negotiators, their Ministers and the region’s political leaders. The CCCCC, along with the CARICOM Secretariat has been tasked with setting up the task force and facilitating its work.
Guyana has been playing a lead role with regards to climate change, and priority projects on adaptation are outlined within its visionary Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which seeks to address the effects of climate change while simultaneously encouraging economic development.
The CARICOM Heads also reaffirmed the mandate of the CCCCC, to develop in partnership with member states, a portfolio of bankable projects eligible for climate financing and which is to be presented to the donor community for support.
The Centre is recognised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and other international agencies as the focal point for climate change issues in the Caribbean.
“This is a critical decision by Heads at a time when efforts are underway through the UN (United Nations) to have a global climate change agreement by the end of 2015. We need to ensure that as a region, our voices are being heard on this important issue, and not only from our technical people, but from the collective political leadership in the region,” President Ramotar noted.
He re-emphasised the need for there to be a globally binding agreement on climate change.
“We have to ensure that we push for a climate change agreement by 2015 which is ambitious in terms of emission reduction targets and providing climate financing,” the Head of State said.
He also stressed that, despite the difficulties faced with climate financing and support for adaptation and climate resilience, the region needs to aggressively tap into opportunities that exist now, while it organises for future possibilities.
The President noted that the CCCCC and Guyana have been working closely since its establishment and closer ties are being developed as part of the LCDS implementation.
The CCCCC coordinates the Caribbean region’s response to climate change. Officially opened in August 2005, the Centre is the key node for information on climate change issues and on the region’s response to managing and adapting to climate change in the Caribbean, its website states.
On June 8, 2009 former President Bharrat Jagdeo launched the LCDS that outlines Guyana’s vision to promote economic development, while at the same time combating climate change. A revised version was published on May 24, 2010 and subsequently the LCDS update was launched in March 2013.
Major efforts have been taken to build the country’s capacity to adapt to the anticipated impacts of climate, including extreme weather patterns and sea-level rise leading to flooding.
The LCDS will support the upgrading of infrastructure and assets to protect against flooding through urgent, near-term measures. Specifically, the LCDS update, identified the project area “Climate Resilience, Adaptation and Water Management Initiatives” for which up to US$100 million will be allocated to improve Guyana’s capacity to address climate change.
Published by: GINA and Kaieteur News.