Tuesday, October 28, 2014

IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change. What does it mean for the Caribbean?IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change. What does it mean for the Caribbean?

The Caribbean’s response to Climate Change is grounded in a firm regional commitment, policy and strategy. Our three foundation documents – The Liliendaal Declaration (July 2009), The Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change (July 2009) and its Implementation Plan (March 2012) – are the basis for climate action in the region.

The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underscores the importance, scientific rigour and utility of these landmark documents. The IPCC’s latest assessment confirms the Caribbean Community’s longstanding call to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees celsius as outlined in the Liliendaal Declaration. At the Nations Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) Meeting in 2009, which took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Caribbean Community indicated to the world community that a global temperature rise above 1.50C would seriously affect the survival of the community.

In 2010 at the UNFCCC COP Meeting in Cancun, governments agreed that emissions ought to be kept at a level that would ensure global temperature increases would be limited to below 20C. At that time, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which includes the Caribbean, re-iterated that any rise in temperature above 1.50C would seriously affect their survival and compromise their development agenda. The United Nations Human Development Report (2008) and the State of the World Report (2009) of The Worldwatch Institute supports this position and have identified 20C as the threshold above which irreversible and dangerous Climate Change will become unavoidable.

Accordingly, the Caribbean welcomes the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report prepared by over 2000 eminent scientists. It verifies observations in the Caribbean that temperatures are rising, extreme weather events are occurring more frequently, sea levels are rising, and there are more incidences of coral bleaching. These climatic changes will further exacerbate the limited availability of fresh water, agricultural productivity, result in more erosion and inundation, and increase the migration of fish from the Caribbean to cooler waters and more hospitable habitats. The cumulative effect is reduced food security, malnutrition, and productivity, thus increasing the challenges to achieving poverty reduction and socio-economic development.

The report notes that greenhouse gases emissions, the cause of Climate Change, continues to rise at an ever increasing rate. Unless this trend is arrested and rectified by 2050, global temperatures could rise by at least 4°C by 2100. This would be catastrophic for the Caribbean. However, the report is not all gloom and doom. More than half of the new energy plants for electricity are from renewable resources, a trend that must accelerate substantially if the goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C by 2100 is to remain feasible.

The IPCC AR5 Report should therefore serve as a further wake up call to our region that we cannot continue on a business as usual trajectory. It is an imperative that Climate Change be integrated in every aspect of the region’s development agenda, as well as its short, medium and long-term planning. The region must also continue to aggressively engage its partners at the bilateral and multilateral levels to reduce their emissions. The best form of adaptation is reduction in emissions level.

Dr Kenrick Leslie

The IPCC will adopt the Synthesis Report of the AR5 in Copenhagen, Denmark in late October 2014. Caribbean negotiators are already preparing to ensure that the most important information from the report are captured in the Synthesis Report.

See the highlights of the Caribbean Launch of the UN IPCC AR5 Report in this video:

Learn more about the implications of the IPCC AR5 Report via www.caribbeanclimate.bz and @CaribbeanClimate.

* Dr Kenrick Leslie is the Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, the regional focal point for Climate Change.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Belize Fights to Save a Crucial Barrier Reef

BELIZE CITY, Oct 20 2014 (IPS) - Home to the second longest barrier reef in the world and the largest in the Western Hemisphere, which provides jobs in fishing, tourism and other industries which feed the lifeblood of the economy, Belize has long been acutely aware of the need to protect its marine resources from both human and natural activities.

However, there has been a recent decline in the production and export of marine products including conch, lobster, and fish, even as tourism figures continue to increase.

"What happens on the land will eventually reach the sea, via our rivers." -- Dr. Kenrick Leslie

The decline is not helped by overfishing and the harvest of immature conch and lobster outside of the standard fishing season. But the primary reason for less conch and lobster in Belize’s waters, according to local experts, is excess ocean acidity which is making it difficult for popular crustacean species such as conch and lobster, which depend on their hard, spiny shells to survive, to grow and mature.

According to the executive director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC), Dr. Kenrick Leslie, acidification is as important and as detrimental to the sustainability of the Barrier Reef and the ocean generally as warming of the atmosphere and other factors generally associated with climate change.

Carbon dioxide which is emitted in the atmosphere from greenhouse gases is absorbed into the ocean as carbonic acid, which interacts with the calcium present in the shells of conch and lobster to form calcium carbonate, dissolving those shells and reducing their numbers. Belize also faces continuous difficulties with coral bleaching, which has attacked several key sections of the reef in recent years.

Dr. Leslie told IPS that activities on Belize’s terrestrial land mass are also contributing to the problems under Belize’s waters. "What happens on the land will eventually reach the sea, via our rivers," he noted.

To fight these new problems, there is need for more research and accurate, up to the minute data.

Last month, the European Union (EU), as part of its Global Climate Change Alliance Caribbean Support Project handed over to the government of Belize and specifically the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development for its continued usage a Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) buoy based at South Water Caye off the Stann Creek District in southern Belize. More



Monday, October 20, 2014

Turks & Caicos Joins The Caribbean's Renewable Energy Race

Governor Peter Beckingham

New York, October 16,2014— Tlirks & Caicos fTCI) deepened its commitment to advancing renewable energy by joining the Carbon War Room's Ten Island Challenge today.

The Premier of Turks and Caicos, the Honorable Doctor Rufus Ewing, and Carbon War Room Operation Director, Justine Locke, signed a Memorandum of Understanding, committing to work together to reduce the island's dependence on fossil fuels through increased renewable energy production and improved energy efficiency.

"With the addition of Turks & Caicos, the Ten Island Challenge continues to expand its efforts to transform Caribbean economies and help the region achieve independence from fossil fuels."Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Carbon War Room

The Ten Island Challenge, driven by partners Carbon War Room and Rocky Mountain Institute, provides the Government of TCI the opportunity and platform to define and realize its own vision of a clean economy. In order to achieve this vision, the Carbon War Room and Rocky Mountain Institute will provide a range of technical, project management, communications, and business advisory support services.

The MOU signing builds on a commitment made by the Governor of Turks and Caicos, Peter Beckingham at the Creating Climate Wealth Islands Summit in February 2014, when Turks & Caicos expressed interest in joining the Challenge

The Ten Island Challenge

The Ten Island Challenge works to accelerate the transition of Caribbean island economies from a heavy dependence on fossil fuels to renewable resources. Caribbean economies suffer from some of the highest electricity prices in the world—contributing to their national debts, and slowing efforts toward sustainable development. Despite an abundance of sun and wind, Caribbean islands have implemented relatively low amounts of renewables to date. The Ten Island Challenge is tackling this by identifying the technical and commercial solutions that can facilitate low-carbon energy use in the Caribbean.

In 2013, Sir Richard Branson committed his home of Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands to serve as a 'demo' island in the Challenge, and, in February of this year, US energy giant NRG Energy was awarded the contract to transition the island to renewables. More






Monday, October 13, 2014

I'm fighting to keep my home above water

My name is Milañ Loeak, I’m from the Marshall Islands, and I bring you a message on behalf of my Climate Warrior brothers and sisters from across Oceania.

You've probably heard it all before -- that the climate is changing, that the ocean is rising, that my home in the islands will be the first to go. But the people of the Pacific are not drowning, we are fighting. And the biggest threat to our homes is the fossil fuel industry.

So here's how we're fighting back: there's a coal port in Newcastle, Australia and it's the largest in the world, shipping approximately 617,000 tons of coal every single day. If the port were a country, it would be the 9th highest emitting country in the world. That’s why I have travelled to Australia to shut it down for a day.

Using traditional canoes, I and 30 other Pacific Climate Warriors are going to paddle into the oncoming path of coal ships. Behind us will be hundreds of Australians in kayaks, on surfboards and whatever else they can find, united with us as we stand up to the fossil fuel industry.

But we need more than hundreds of Australians standing with us -- we are going to need you too.

The fossil fuel industry will try to dismiss us. They will launch their PR machine to say that we are just a small group acting alone and that we do not speak for others. But we know that we are not acting alone. We are standing with front line communities around the world when we say it is time to end our addiction to fossil fuels before it destroys our homes, our communities, and our culture.

As the Pacific Climate Warriors paddle into the water on October 17th, show that you stand with us -- click here to sign on to our call for solidarity.

Stopping one day of coal exports alone won't keep our homes above water, but it marks the rise of the Pacific Climate Warriors, and the beginning of our defense of the Pacific Islands.

I ask you to join us in this fight -- because we cannot save the Pacific Islands on our own.

Warm Pacific wishes,

Milañ Loeak, Republic of the Marshall Islands

350.org is building a global climate movement. Become a sustaining donor to keep this movement strong and growing.




Monday, October 6, 2014

Antigua Faces Climate Risks with Ambitious Renewables Target

Ruth Spencer is a pioneer in the field of solar energy. She promotes renewable technologies to communities throughout her homeland of Antigua and Barbuda, playing a small but important part in helping the country achieve its goal of a 20-percent reduction in the use of fossil fuels by 2020.

She also believes that small non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have a crucial role to play in the bigger projects aimed at tackling the problems caused by the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas.

Spencer, who serves as National Focal Point for the Global Environment Facility (GEF)-Small Grants Programme (SGP) in Antigua and Barbuda, has been at the forefront of an initiative to bring representatives of civil society, business owners and NGOs together to educate them about the dangers posed by climate change.

“The GEF/SGP is going to be the delivery mechanism to get to the communities, preparing them well in advance for what is to come,” she told IPS.

The GEF Small Grants Programme in the Eastern Caribbean is administered by the United Nations office in Barbados.

“Since climate change is heavily impacting the twin islands of Antigua and Barbuda, it is important that we bring all the stakeholders together,” said Spencer, a Yale development economist who also coordinates the East Caribbean Marine Managed Areas Network funded by the German government.

“The coastal developments are very much at risk and we wanted to share the findings of the IPCC report with them to let them see for themselves what all these scientists are saying,” Spencer told IPS.

“We are in a small island so we have to build synergies, we have to network, we have to partner to assist each other. By providing the information, they can be aware and we are going to continue doing follow up….so together we can tackle the problem in a holistic manner,” she added.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has sent governments a final draft of its synthesis report, which paints a harsh picture of what is causing global warming and what it will do to humans and the environment. It also describes what can be done about it.

Ruleta Camacho, project coordinator for the sustainable island resource management mechanism within Antigua and Barbuda’s Ministry of the Environment, told IPS there is documented observation of sea level rise which has resulted in coastal erosion and infrastructure destruction on the coastline.

She said there is also evidence of ocean acidification and coral bleaching, an increase in the prevalence of extreme weather events – extreme drought conditions and extreme rainfall events – all of which affect the country’s vital tourism industry.

“The drought and the rainfall events have impacts on the tourism sector because it impacts the ancillary services – the drought affects your productivity of local food products as well as your supply of water to the hotel industry,” she said.

“And then you have the rainfall events impacting the flooding so you have days where you cannot access certain sites and you have flood conditions which affect not only the hotels in terms of the guests but it also affects the staff that work at the hotels. If we get a direct hit from a storm we have significant instant dropoff in the productivity levels in the hotel sector.”

Antigua and Barbuda, which is known for its sandy beaches and luxurious resorts, draws nearly one million visitors each year. Tourism accounts for 60 to 75 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, and employs nearly 90 percent of the population.

Like Camacho, Ediniz Norde, an environment officer, believes sea level rise is likely to worsen existing environmental stresses such as a scarcity of freshwater for drinking and other uses.

“Many years ago in St. John’s we had seawater intrusion all the way up to Tanner Street. It cut the street in half. It used to be a whole street and now there is a big gutter running through it, a ship was lodged in Tanner Street,” she recalled.

“Now it only shows if we have these levels of sea water rising that this is going to be a reality here in Antigua and Barbuda,” Norde told IPS. “This is how far the water can get and this is how much of our environment, of our earth space that we can lose in St. John’s. It’s a reality that we won’t be able to shy away from if we don’t act now.”

As the earth’s climate continues to warm, rainfall in Antigua and Barbuda is projected to decrease, and winds and rainfall associated with episodic hurricanes are projected to become more intense. Scientists say these changes would likely amplify the impact of sea level rise on the islands.

But Camacho said climate change presents opportunities for Antigua and Barbuda and the country must do its part to implement mitigation measures.

She explained that early moves towards mitigation and building renewable energy infrastructure can bring long-term economic benefits.

“If we retrain our population early enough in terms of our technical expertise and getting into the renewable market, we can actually lead the way in the Caribbean and we can offer services to other Caribbean countries and that’s a positive economic step,” she said.

“Additionally, the quicker we get into the renewable market, the lower our energy cost will be and if we can get our energy costs down, it opens us for economic productivity in other sectors, not just tourism.

“If we can get our electricity costs down we can have financial resources that would have gone toward your electricity bills freed up for improvement of the [tourism] industry and you can have a better product being offered,” she added. More


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

UNGA General Debate 2014 Addresses Climate Agreement, Financing, SIDS


United Nations27 September 2014: During days three and four of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) General Debate 2014, many speakers addressed climate change. Speakers focused on international and national action, including transitions to renewable energy, and financing. Small island developing States (SIDS) particularly urged action, emphasizing they are already experiencing adverse effects on food and water security, biodiversity and oceans.

“Some members have criticized us for focusing too much on climate change and sea level rise, but these issues influence our every decision and affect every aspect of life on our islands,” said Christopher J. Loeak, President of the Marshall Islands, stressing that small island countries cannot afford to speak of climate change as a future threat. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa, underscored that apportioning blame serves no useful purpose, saying “those who exploit the traditional divide between developed and developing countries and ideological and political differences do so conveniently to mask their unwillingness to be part of the solution to an impending global catastrophe.” He suggested viewing the world as a single constituency where everyone must work together within the limits of their capacity and capability to address climate change. Charles Angelo Savarin, President of Dominica, Anote Tong, President of Kiribati, and Malielegaoi emphasized climate change is not an event in the future but an issue SIDS are already experiencing.

Several speakers commended the Climate Summit, welcoming its political momentum. Tong, Ikililou Dhoinine, President of the Comoros, Enele Sosene Sopoga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, and Carlos Raúl Morales, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, called for translating Summit commitments into action. Malielegaoi said the Summit underscored that the world is focusing more on symptoms of climate change than on the root causes.

Many supported a global, legally binding agreement on climate change by 2015, including Donald Rabindranauth Ramotar, President of Guyana, Tomislav Nikolić, President of Serbia, Alpha Condé, President of Guinea, Lubomír Zaorálek, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Salva Kiir, President of South Sudan, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, Tong and Savarin. Malielegaoi said the agreement should be ambitious, effective, binding and capable of swift implementation. Hifikepunye Pohamba, President of Namibia, supported a coordinated global agreement. Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of Congo, supported a binding agreement that included adaptation. Sopoga said a new protocol must: curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; keep average temperature well below 1.5 degrees Celsius; include loss and damage and insurance mechanisms for SIDS; and provide adequate and accessible financing for SIDS' adaption support.

Noting Luxembourg will assume the Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second semester of 2015, Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, said his country would "spare no effort" to find an international agreement on climate, applicable to all countries, with the objective of keeping global warming below two degrees.

Sushil Koirala, Prime Minister of Nepal, supported a binding agreement on climate change with long-term and comprehensive global commitment based on common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), equity and respective capabilities. King Tupou VI of Tonga emphasized CBDR and equity principles.

Catherine Samba-Panza, President of the Transitional Government of the Central African Republic, urged ratification of the Doha amendment to the Kyoto Protocol.

Several speakers outlined national action on climate change, including Pohamba, Gjorge Ivanov, President of Macedonia, and Erlan A. Idrissov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan. Bettel said the EU will present additional contributions to reduce GHG emissions and mitigate climate change, in accordance with the timetable agreed in Warsaw, Poland. At the national level, Bettel said Luxembourg is supporting carbon pricing.

Tong, Loeak and Tupou highlighted national action on adaptation and integrated disaster risk management (DRM). Tong said Kiribati's ‘migration with dignity' strategy is an investment in youth education to allow them to develop employable skills so that they can migrate to other countries voluntarily.

Several countries mentioned renewable energy efforts as part of contributions to addressing climate change, including Steinmeier, Sopoga, Nicos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus, Tomislav Nikolić, President of Serbia, and Morales. Savarin and Loeak described their efforts to increase renewable energy, including through SIDS DOCK, a platform for the development of sustainable energy in SIDS. Erlan A. Idrissov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, highlighted the promotion of best practices in sustainable energy, noting it is launching a project on the installation of biogas systems in nine Pacific SIDS. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), described his country's efforts and investments in renewable energy throughout the world. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan, said his country's goals are aligned with the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Initiative.

Emanuel Mori, President, Federated States of Micronesia, described its proposal to amend the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are GHGs, to prevent temperature increases. He stressed success with the Montreal Protocol over the next six months is “our ticket to a successful outcome in Paris” and urged adoption of the HFC amendment.

On climate financing, Loeak urged the full capitalization of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and other financial mechanisms to address climate change and support the post-2015 agenda. He applauded nations who have pledged specific amounts and urged delivery of real money by major economic powers who he said are also major polluters. Sopoga stressed adequate resources for the GCF, particularly access for SIDS. Nguesso identified innovative financing, technology transfer and capitalization of the GCF as critical. Koirala, Bangladesh and Serbia stressed financing for adaptation, with Koirala saying there should be special provisions for addressing least developed countries (LDCs) and SIDS mitigation and adaptation needs in additional to regular official development assistance (ODA). Bangladesh also recommended adequate, predictable and additional climate finance, support for capacity and institution building and access to locally adaptable technologies.

Bettel highlighted Luxembourg's contribution of 5 million Euros to the GCF, which is new and additional to its ODA. Steinmeier stated Germany's commitment of US$1 billion to the GCF.

Climate change should be included in the post-2015 agenda, according to Savarin and Morales. Sopoga supported a standalone Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on climate change. Idrissov and San Marino highlighted links between climate change and sustainable development. Bangladesh reiterated the need to integrate the UNFCCC, DRR and SDG processes.

Tupou and Sopoga underscored the link between climate change and peace and security, with Tupou advocating for Ban to appoint a Special Representative on Climate and Security and Sopoga supporting addressing climate change and security through the UN Security Council. More

[UNGA General Debate 26 September 2014] [UNGA General Debate 27 September 2014] [UN Press Release on SIDS]