Friday, May 25, 2012

Climate talks stall with nations 'wasting time'

The latest round of UN climate talks has made little progress, observers say.

The meeting in Bonn, Germany saw angry exchanges between rich nations, fast-industrialising ones and those prone to climate impacts.

Campaigners spoke of a “coalition of the unwilling” including the US, China, India and several Gulf states.

Developing countries are also concerned about the lack of firm pledges on finance beyond the end of this year.

This was the first negotiating meeting since last December’s ministerial summit in Durban, South Africa.

The key outcome there was an agreement to begin talks leading to a new global deal involving all nations.

The “Durban Platform”, as it is known, will see the agreement tied up by 2015 and coming into force by 2020.

Opening the Bonn session, UN climate convention (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres told negotiators that progress depended on ambition - “ambition to support developing countries, ambition to mobilise finance and… ambition to decisively and tangibly reduce emissions according to what science demands”.

By the end, several observers including Tove Maria Ryding of Greenpeace International concluded that ambition had been largely absent.

“It’s absurd to watch governments sit and point fingers and fight like little kids while the scientists explain about the terrifying impacts of climate change,” she said. More


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mangroves Lead Battle Against Rising Seas

LAE, Papua New Guinea, May 22, 2012 (IPS) - Sea level rise near Papua New Guinea, a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) in the southwest Pacific, is estimated at seven millimetres per year, double the global annual average of 2.8-3.6 mm.

In a bottom-up approach to fighting climate change, the indigenous use of mangroves is now leading local and national plans to stem the destruction of land and communities by coastal flooding and erosion.

As global warming melts ice and glaciers, small island states are the first to be threatened by thermal expansion of the world’s oceans. The Pacific Climate Change Science Programme predicts that, under a high emissions scenario, Papua New Guinea could experience a sea level rise of 4-15 cm by 2030.

The government has identified coastal flooding and malaria as the two climate change hazards expected to cause the greatest damage to land, people and infrastructure. Coastal flooding has affected 8,000 people annually over the past 15 years, and could impact 65,000 people within the next 18 years. Experts say the cost of damage from coastal flooding could increase from 20 million dollars per year to 90-100 million dollars annually by 2030, but implementation of adaptation measures may reduce losses by 65-85 percent.

Climate adaptation is not a new concept to those who have lived along the nation’s coastlines for generations. In Milne Bay and Oro Provinces on the east coast, the Maisin, Are, Doga and Dima people of Collingwood Bay have long possessed knowledge of the importance of mangrove forests to conserve coastal ecosystems.

The waterlogged trunks and roots of mangrove trees, which grow in saltwater inter-tidal areas along rivers and between land and ocean in tropical regions, consolidate sediment, thereby strengthening coastlines and protecting against flooding and erosion.

According to Mama Graun, a local conservation trust fund, 30 of the 42 mangrove species found in Papua New Guinea grow along 159.8 kilometres of Collingwood Bay’s coastline. The tropical tree system is central to the sustainable life of villages. It provides timber for building dwellings, firewood for cooking and traditional medicinal remedies, while mangrove swamps harbour marine foods, such as fish, oysters and crabs. More


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Africa: UN Climate Talks Need Fresh Ambition On Emissions

A week into the U.N. climate negotiations in Bonn - my first as the lead negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) - it has become abundantly clear to me that, at these talks, the devil is in the details.

This is particularly true when it comes to accounting for the reductions countries have pledged to make to the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.

According to a recent United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, total global emissions approached the equivalent of 48 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions (GtC02e) in 2010 and are on track to hit 56 GtC02e in 2020.

It also found that annual emissions must be reduced to below 44 GtC02e in 2020, and continue declining steeply thereafter to avoid warming of more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels - to say nothing of the more cautious temperature goal of "well-below 1.5 degrees Celsius" that is supported by over 100 vulnerable countries.

However, even if countries achieve the more ambitious end of their pledges, we would fall short of the scientifically determined mitigation requirement by 6 to 8 GtC02e in 2020, as was noted in the climate agreement reached in Durban last year.

Already, life-altering changes have been observed across our membership as a result of an average global temperature increase of less than 1 degree Celsius, including the loss of islands in parts of Kiribati and the Maldives, as well as more frequent and intense storms, heat waves, droughts and other climate impacts.

In other words, unless the emissions gap is closed in the near-term, the opportunity to avoid further - potentially catastrophic - damage may irrevocably be lost.

In Bonn, AOSIS presented our proposal to close the gap: what we're calling our "Workplan For Survival." More


Monday, May 21, 2012

Small Island States must collaborate on Climate Change Issues - Pickersgill

Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill looks on as Resident Representative, UNDP, Dr. Arun Kashyap (left), greets Senior Fellow, Sir Arthur Lewis Institute, University of the West Indies, Mona, Dr. Michael Witter, during the National Consultations on the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held at the Wyndham Kingston.

Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, says there is need for a strong regional mechanism geared towards facilitating co-operation and collaboration among Small Island Developing States (SIDS), especially on issues surrounding climate change.

Addressing the National Consultations on the United Nations (UN) Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) at the Wyndham Hotel in Kingston on May 15, Minister Pickersgill said climate change is of particular concern to SIDS because of their vulnerability to its effects.

He stated the issue should remain on the agenda for the Rio+20 conference in June. “We need to ensure that this is reflected in the Rio + 20 outcome,” he stated.

According to Minister Pickersgill, climate change is considered to be the most pervasive and truly global of all issues affecting humanity and poses a serious threat to the environment as well as to economies and societies.

The phenomenon, he said, is a threat to sustainable development in CARICOM states, even though the contribution of the region to global greenhouse gas emission is negligible.

While pointing to the need for a mechanism at the national level to address sustainable development, he said the issue is addressed in Vision 2030 Jamaica: The National Development Plan, “and I will be in discussion with my colleagues responsible for economic and social matters as well as the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), to see how we can put in place institutional arrangements to facilitate coordination and implementation of the plan." More


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Peabody Coal buys coal from U.S. taxpayers for cheap, sells it abroad for huge profit

Yesterday, I wrote about the issue of public land in the Powder River Basin being leased to coal companies for cheap, so they can strip-mine it and sell the coal abroad at an enormous profit.

Also yesterday, the feds held a “competitive lease sale” for the South Porcupine Tract, which contains almost 402 million tons of mineable coal.

Guess how many companies bid in this “competitive auction”? One: Peabody Coal, the company that filed the original application [PDF] for the lease.

This was actually the second auction for the tract. The first ended with no sale because BLM rejected Peabody’s lowball offer of $0.90 a ton. The winning price in Thursday’s sale? $1.11 per ton.

Again: $1.11 per ton.

The price of a ton of Powder River Basin coal on U.S. spot markets?$9.15 per ton, as of May 11.

The price of a ton of coal exported to China? It averaged $97.28 per ton [PDF] in 2011. It’s now up to $123 per ton.

And exports are only likely to go up:

So, to summarize: You, the U.S. taxpayer, just leased another huge chunk of your land to Peabody Coal at $1.11 per ton of coal. Peabody will strip-mine that land and take the coal to China, where it will sell it for over $100 per ton. Peabody pockets enormous profits*, the U.S. taxpayer gets devastated land, and China accelerates global warming. More

And for the rest of the world, specially the Small Island Developing States and coastal cities, sea level rise, flooding and eventual evacuation. Will you give us a passport President Barak Hussain Obama? Editor.

Monday, May 14, 2012

SIDS Ministers Discuss Position for Rio+20


11 May 2012: An informal ministerial meeting took place to address small island developing States’ (SIDS) position for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), on 9 May 2012, in Bridgetown, Barbados. Representatives of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) stressed a focus on “the day after Rio." Other delegates addressed issues relating to utilization of ocean resources; gender aspects of resource access; principles of rotation between Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, and South China Sea (AIMS), Pacific and Caribbean; and strengthening of governance structures.

Heads of government and ministers from 29 states participated in the proceedings, which were hosted by the Government of Barbados and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The meeting immediately followed the High-Level Conference of SIDS, "Achieving Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL)."

The meeting was chaired by Denis Lowe, Minister of Environment and Drainage, Barbados. It included: an update on progress in negotiations from UNCSD Executive Coordinator Elizabeth Thompson, who also identified elements for a successful transition to a global green economy; a presentation by Appio Claudio Acquarone, Ambassador of Brazil to Barbados, on Brazil’s views on the Rio outcome, noting it should incorporate, inter alia: poverty eradication and a clear framework for multilateral institutions on sustainable development; closed, high-level meetings to address SIDS' priorities for Rio+20 and level of ambition for the proposed Third Global Conference on Sustainable Development of SIDS in 2014; and a plenary discussion on expectations for Rio+20.

Statements were made by: Aloysius Amwano, Special Envoy of the President of Nauru and Chair of AOSIS; Peter Thomson, Permanent Representative of Fiji to the UN, regarding the “blue economy”; Ronald Jumeau, Permanent Representative of the Seychelles to the UN, speaking on behalf of AIMS; and Garfield Barnwell, Caribbean Community (CARICOM), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean region. [IISD RS Meeting Coverage]

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Small Island States In Clean Energy Race

They seldom meet on the cricket or football fields, but the world's small island developing states are informally competing with each other to be the first to ditch fossil fuels and embrace clean energy.

A new United Nations analysis of the most recent energy plans of 52 low lying poor countries - traditionally heavily dependent on imports of petrol and oil - shows the Caribbean island of Dominica leading the world with plans to become carbon "negative" by 2020. The Maldives is not far behind, hoping to be carbon neutral by 2020. Tuvalu and the Cook islands intend to generate all their electricity from renewables by 2020 and Timor-Leste, the poorest country in Asia, expects to provide solar electricity to all its 100,000 families by 2030.

With Tonga, Samoa, Nauru, Mauritius and many other countries also volunteering to switch to solar, geothermal and wind energy, the collective target of the group of 52 small island developing states is a 45 percent cut in emissions in the next 18 years - considerably more than the world's rich countries who between them have pledged 12-18 percent cuts by 2020.

"We are showing the world leadership," said Dominican ambassador to the UN, Vince Henderson, at a UN development program meeting ahead of next week's reconvened climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

"This is about survival as well as economics. We are spending $220 million a year importing fuel so it is in our interests. It is vested interests by the oil, coal and fossil fuel industries that is preventing rich countries meeting their obligations. We are demanding that all countries take their responsibilities."

"Small island developing states can leap toward the goal of a poverty-free and prosperous future by changing their energy sectors," said Barbados Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart. "We can rally the international community with a unified voice, sharing our aspiration to become fully sustainable." More


Friday, May 11, 2012

SIDS conference adopts the Barbados Declaration

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday May 11, 2012 – The Barbados-hosted Achieving Sustainable Energy for All in Small Island Developing States Conference has concluded with the adoption of the "Barbados Declaration" addressing universal access to modern and affordable renewable energy services while protecting environment, ending poverty and creating new opportunities for economic growth.

Adopted just weeks before the UN Conference on Sustainable Development “Rio+20”, the declaration includes an annex with voluntary commitments of 20 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to take actions toward providing universal access to energy, switching to renewable energy and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

Barbados announced its plan to increase the share of renewable energy in that country to 29 percent of all electricity consumption by 2029.

"By 2029 we expect that total electricity costs would have been cut by US$283.5 million and CO2 emissions would have been reduced by 4.5 million tons," said Prime Minister Freundel Stuart. "We also envisage an overall 22 percent reduction in projected electricity consumption based on the use of energy efficiency measures."

Actions pledged by other small developing island states include Maldives’ commitment to achieve carbon neutrality in the energy sector by the year 2020; Marshall Island’s aim to electrify all urban households and 95 percent of rural outer atoll households by 2015; Mauritius’ commitment to increasing the share of renewable energy - including solar power, wind energy, hydroelectric power, bagasse and landfill gas - to 35 percent or more by 2025, and Seychelles’ commitment to produce 15 percent of energy supply from renewable energy by 2030. More


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Indian Ocean Islands Call on Rio+20 to Focus on Climate Change

“Islands are the barometers of international environmental policies. The entire world will first witness their success or their failure on our islands.” These words, of James Michel, the President of Seychelles, deserve to be spoken out loud as delegates from small island developing States (SIDS) gear up to defend their interests at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20).

SIDS serve as the guardians of a "planet under pressure," whose point of no return is unknown. These concerns are central to the activities of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), the only African intergovernmental organisation made up entirely of islands. At Rio+20, IOC will voice the views of its Member States, namely: Comoros, France/Reunion, Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles. IOC will highlight the specific vulnerabilities faced by these islands and advocate for the international community to grant them special and differential treatment.

Chaired by Seychelles since January 2012, the IOC will count on the leadership and determination of James Michel in Rio to deliver his message to participating nations. In February 2012, at the Delhi Summit on Sustainable Summit, Michel expressed his disappointment with the international community for its inaction on climate change, 20 years after the first Rio Summit. He further emphasised the interlinkages between two of the major challenges of this century, namely sustainable development and climate change.

Whatever crises or uncertainties we now face, there is no more time for words. All the lights have turned red and the cost of inaction is growing. Our island nations are already dealing with the impacts of climate change. The fragile balance of our ecosystems, known for their extraordinary wealth, has already been weakened by often poorly-adapted development. Our vulnerable economies are also under threat, and our efforts to achieve sustainable development and fight against poverty risk to be undone.

In Madagascar, for example, the number of violent cyclones almost tripled between 1975 and 2004. It also appears that, globally, the frequency of these intense cyclones is rising. For the ‘Big Island,’ which is among the top ten countries in the world most vulnerable to cyclones, this trend is particularly worrying as 65% of its population live along the coast and post-cyclone socioeconomic recovery takes an average of five years. The other impacts of climate change include the effect of coral bleaching on marine biodiversity, the threats to food security and increased water scarcity. More

by: Callixte D'Offay, Secretary-General of the Indian Ocean Commission

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge: Nightmare Scenario for SIDS

Cambridge University glaciologist Professor Julian Dowdeswell has spent three years of his life in the polar regions.

As Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, this film follows him to Greenland and the Antarctic as his research reveals the challenges we all face from climate change.
credit: University of Cambridge

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Study Highlights Renewable Energy Potential and Policy Options for Islands and Remote Areas

Study Highlights Renewable Energy Potential and Policy Options for Islands and Remote Areas

IEA27 April 2012: The International Energy Agency (IEA) Renewable Energy Technology Deployment (IEA-RETD) has published a study on renewable energies for remote areas and islands (REMOTE). The objective of the study is to provide policy perspectives for making remote areas and islands largely independent from fossil fuel imports and costly energy transmission infrastructures.

This report aims to provide decision-makers with a better grasp of the technical, economic and energy issues facing remote areas, as well as to provide a menu of policy options available to accelerate renewable energy development in these regions. The report also aims to equip national, regional and local policymakers with perspective, context, and inspiration on how to develop sustainable energy strategies.

The study highlights that remote areas around the world are at the forefront of the transition toward a more sustainable energy future and that deploying renewable energy technologies at scale in remote areas can provide valuable lessons for central electric grids and for mainland transportation and heating systems. Case studies highlight lessons learned applicable at the community, provincial and national levels. The implications of these lessons learned are summarized and ways in which governments can help overcome challenges facing deployment of renewable energy technologies in remote areas are discussed. These challenges include: scaling back fossil fuel subsidies; assisting with training and the lack of technical expertise; assisting with project planning and implementation; designing appropriate incentives; overcoming the issue of scale; increasing research and development (R&D) funding; prioritizing energy efficiency; determining the appropriate level of RE penetration; and mitigating risks. [Publication: Renewable Energies for Remote Areas and Islands]

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