Friday, August 29, 2014

‘Mangrove Man’ inspired by world travel

He’s traveled half a million miles over the years – enough to go around the world 12 times, or to the moon and halfway back – so it’s little wonder that writer, photographer, conservationist and educator Martin Keeley continues to find inspiration for his work.

Keeley’s latest trips are with the Marvelous Mangrove education curriculum, a program that teaches schoolchildren about the importance of mangroves and the eco-systems which they support worldwide, as well as training teachers to teach both students and other teachers.

The program was developed by Cayman Brac-based Keeley in 1999 and initially was incorporated into Cayman’s primary school curriculum. It is part of the Mangrove Action Project, a conservation group comprised of more than 300 scientists and academics spanning more than 60 nations.

The Marvelous Mangrove program is now in 11 countries, with the expansion this year to South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and Queensland, Australia.

“For me, the mangrove trips continue to stimulate the creative process,” said the writer.

“They often inspire my poetry, and I reckon that in another six months or so I’ll have enough to publish another anthology. My photography also continues to benefit from my travels and exposure to other cultures and their environments.”

In addition, he says, he gets an in-depth perspective on the countries and the cultures where he works.

“I experience and observe firsthand their societies and the common problems they face – the huge and ever growing disparity between the obscenely wealthy and the desperately poor who are barely making it,” Keeley added.

“The contrasts I observed this summer between nations like Indonesia and Australia stimulate not only sympathy and anger between the haves and have-nots, but empathy with those whose daily struggle is that of survival, while others have little or no idea how lucky they are take for granted their secure and protective social environment.”

At the Indonesian trip, 30 teachers and educators spent three days in an intense workshop that, in the words of Keeley, “introduced them to the wonderful world of mangroves through hands-on science.”

A particular highlight was the surprise introduction of 15 school kids who came in and assisted for the afternoon, Keeley said.

“The setting is perfect, with elevated cabins connected by elevated walkways and the “hall” for the workshop itself in a Roman-style amphitheater that is open to the elements – roofed, but with shutters, not glass windows,” he said.

“The accommodation, theater and restaurant operate independent of the grid on solar power with water from local wells and storage systems which is treated through solar osmosis, although it sometimes has to be topped up by water trucks during the dry season. The food is all grown locally, and mostly seafood that is caught locally on a daily basis.”

The Australian leg of the trip, he said, was slightly different.

“Australia saw the launch of ‘Mangrovia,’ a huge inflatable red mangrove that students go inside to explore and hear storytelling,” Keeley said.

“In addition, Mangrovia’s creator, international festival artist Evelyn Roth, also designed and made 28 costumes of mangrove critters that are used in conjunction with the inflatable.

“Many Cayman students [and adults] have had similar experiences with my huge inflatable shark and the 30 mangrove critter costumes which go with it during the past 15 years! It’s an exciting way to learn.”

The issue of mangrove conservation has become more and more important in recent years, Keeley says, largely because of their environmental qualities.

“It has been known for many years, and the 2004 Asian Tsunami proved it beyond doubt, that mangroves are the first line of defense against major tropical storms, be they hurricanes or typhoons,” Mr. Keeley continued.

“Recent studies during the past six or seven years have also shown that, given the opportunity, mangroves will keep pace with sea level rise thereby extending that level of protection. In addition, recent research has shown that mangroves capture CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in leaves, roots, trunks and soil.

“No maximum storage capacity has been determined as the trees continuously store carbon in the soil for centuries or millennia. Obviously ripping out mangroves releases this stored CO2 and thereby adds to the acceleration of global warming.

“National governments from Vietnam and China to Belize and Guatemala have come to understand what local communities and scientists have been telling them for many years. Mangroves are the major source of more than 75 percent of reef species of fish and invertebrates – they are the spawning and nursery grounds for these species. Thousands of communities round the world rely on these aquatic species for their livelihoods and to feed their families.”

Next up for stamps on the increasingly-packed passport pages will be trips to Bangladesh and Kenya, scheduled for summer 2015. Keeley has already visited both briefly to get the ball rolling and he told Weekender that – funding permitting – translations of the materials and teacher training workshops will be introduced.

There seems no sign of slowing down there, either, for the Brac-based whirlwind.

“World-wide at least a dozen other countries are interested in the Marvellous Mangroves curriculum,” he concluded.

“As usual, it’s just a matter of time and, of course, money, to make it happen.” More

 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Small islands to sign historic treaty in Samoa

Small islands to sign historic treaty in Samoa, to help finance climate change adaptation

Representatives from 31 small islands and low lying countries that are members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) will reaffirm their commitment to the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Sustainable Energy mechanism – SIDS DOCK – at an Official Ceremony for the Opening of Signature for the Statute Establishing the SIDS DOCK, on 1 September 2014, during the upcoming United Nations (UN) Third International Conference on SIDS, in Apia, Samoa, from 1-4 September. The opening for signature of this historic SIDS-SIDS Treaty is a significant highlight and outcome of the Conference, and a major step toward the treaty’s entry into force.

Representatives scheduled to attend the ceremony confirmed their continuing support for, and preparation to sign the Statute as soon as possible, and reiterated their resolve to continue cooperating to achieve its prompt entry into force and to support the SIDS DOCK goal of 25-50-25 by 2033: Island Energy For Island Life. SIDS need to mobilize and facilitate in excess of USD 20 billion by 2033, about USD 1 billion per year, to help finance the transformation of the SIDS energy sector in order to achieve a 25 percent (from the 2005 baseline) increase in energy efficiency, generation of a minimum of 50 percent of electric power from renewable sources, and a 25 percent decrease in conventional transportation fuel use, in order to significantly increase financial resources to enable climate change adaptation in SIDS.

The Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Finance, for the Commonwealth of Dominica, and acting in his country’s capacity as Chair of the SIDS DOCK Steering Committee, said that SIDS DOCK represents a significant achievement in solidifying SIDS-SIDS relationships and cooperation and is, “an extraordinary lesson learned of what can happen when a genuine partner takes ‘a chance’ on a new and innovative idea that has the potential to help SIDS adapt and become more resilient to the changing climate and sea level rise.” Recognising that the lives of more than 20 million people in small islands and low lying states are at high risk, the majority of them young people, the Government of Denmark was the first country to provide support for SIDS DOCK start-up activities with a grant of USD 14.5 million in 2010, during climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark. This gesture and demonstration of support was followed by a grant of USD 15 million, over two years in 2011, from the Government of Japan during climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.

In March 2014, in partnership with the United Nations Industrial and Development Organization (UNIDO), the Government of Austria extended support under a Memorandum of Understanding, with a grant of 1 million euros, for start-up activities for Centres for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in the Caribbean (CCREEE), the Pacific (PCREEE), and support to African SIDS through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ECREEE in Cabo Verde, and at a later date, support for a centre in the Indian Ocean region (IOCREEE). The new centres will also act as SE4ALL Hubs, assisting SIDS to translate commitments to actions. SIDS DOCK is highly complementary to the work being done under the Sustainable Energy For All (SE4All) Initiative, a personal initiative of the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, that has SIDS as the largest group of signatories and with the highest ambitions.

During the Third International Conference on SIDS, the Government of Samoa and its people will host hundreds of representatives from small islands and low lying states, donors, investors and civil society groups, to what is expected to be the most important conference on SIDS to date, and one that is expected to define SIDS in a Post-2015 world, with genuine partnerships at the core of the agenda. SIDS DOCK is well-positioned to participate in the SIDS Post-2015 Agenda with its partners, the Governments of Denmark, Japan and Austria; the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Industrial and Development Organization (UNIDO); The World Bank; and The Clinton Foundation – Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI).

During the Signing Ceremony on September 1, the Dominican Prime Minister will invite other members of the AOSIS to consider joining the organisation. The Statute will remain open for signature in Apia, Samoa until September 5, and will re-open for signature in Belmopan, Belize, from September 6, 2014 until it enters into force. Belize is the host country for SIDS DOCK, with Samoa designated as the location for the Pacific regional office. More

 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

UN Outlines Expectations for SIDS Conference


21 August 2014: The UN announced key outcomes that are expected from the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) taking place in Apia, Samoa, on 1-4 September, including over 300 new, SIDS-focused partnerships that will be monitored for their achievements.


Wu Hongbo, Secretary-General of the SIDS Conference and UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, highlighted that the preparatory process leading to the Conference has already produced an agreed outcome document, called the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action Pathway, or ‘SAMOA Pathway.' He said the early agreement on the outcome document clears the way for the Conference itself to focus on developing partnerships that will support ‘concrete and focused actions' to tackle the specific development issues faced by SIDS.


The document outlines agreed actions in the areas of economic growth, decent work, climate change, and health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Wu stressed that governments alone will not be able to deliver sustainable development, and that partnerships with the private sector and civil society will be needed.


A UN press release said that heads of 21 UN agencies will attend the Samoa conference, and that the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) will continue to maintain a SIDS partnerships platform, and will monitor the implementation of SIDS-focused initiatives. More


IISD Reporting Services will be providing daily coverage of the four pre-conference fora, the conference plenary sessions and six Partnership Dialogues, and selected side events. [UN Press Release] [SAMOA Pathway] [SIDS Conference Website] [IISD RS Meeting Coverage]





 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Greenland ice loss doubles from late 2000s

A new assessment from Europe’s CryoSat spacecraft shows Greenland to be losing about 375 cu km of ice year.

The team has produced elevation models for the ice sheets

Added to the discharges coming from Antarctica, it means Earth’s two big ice sheets are now dumping roughly 500 cu km of ice in the oceans annually.

“The contribution of both ice sheets together to sea level rise has doubled since 2009,” said Angelika Humbert from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute.

“To us, that’s an incredible number,” she told BBC News.

In its report to The Cryosphere journal, the AWI team does not actually calculate a sea-level rise equivalent number, but if this volume is considered to be all ice (a small part will be snow) then the contribution is likely to be on the order of just over a millimetre per year.

This is the latest study to use the precision altimetry data being gathered by the European Space Agency’s CryoSat platform.

The satellite was launched in 2010 with a sophisticated radar instrument specifically designed to measure the shape of the polar ice sheets.

The AWI group, led by senior researcher Veit Helm, has taken just over two years’ worth of data centred on 2012/2013 to build what are called digital elevation models (DEMs) of Greenland and Antarctica, and to asses their evolution.

These models incorporate a total of 14 million individual height measurements for Greenland and another 200 million for Antarctica.

When compared with similar data-sets assembled by the US space agency’s IceSat mission between 2003 and 2009, the scientists are able then to calculate changes in ice volume beyond just the CryoSat snapshot.

Negative shifts are the result of surface melting and ice discharge; positive trends are the consequence of precipitation - snowfall.

Greenland is experiencing the biggest reductions in elevation currently, losing about 375 cu km a year (plus or minus 24 cu km per year), with most of the action occurring at the west and south-east coast of the continent.

Significant thinning is seen also in the North East Greenland Ice Stream (NEGIS).

“This has three outlet glaciers and one of these, the Zachariae Isstrom, has retreated quite a bit and some volume loss has already been reported. But we see now that this volume loss is really propagating to upper areas, much further into the interior of the ice sheet than has been recorded before,” explained Prof Humbert.

In Antarctica, the annual volume loss is about 128 cu km per year (plus or minus 83 cu km per year).

As other studies have found, this is concentrated in the continent’s western sector, in the area of the Amundsen Sea Embayment.

Big glaciers here, such as Thwaites and Pine Island, are thinning and retreating at a rapid rate.

Some thickening is seen also, such as in Dronning Maud Land, where colossal snowfalls have been reported. But this accumulation does not offset the losses occurring in West Antarctica.

A British-led group recently reported its own Antarctica DEM, using a different algorithm to process the numbers in the CryoSat data.

The AWI outcomes look very similar, and the German team has transferred the exact same approach to Greenland so it can have confidence in comparing the two continents.

The losses also look consistent with the analysis coming out of the American Grace mission, which uses a different type of satellite to monitor gravity changes in the polar regions - to, in essence, weigh the amount of ice being dumped into the sea.

Prof Andy Shepherd, who was part of the British group that reported its findings in May, commented: “This is yet another exciting result from CryoSat, thanks to the team at AWI, charting yet more new ground by providing the first complete survey of ice volume changes in Greenland.

“However, the increased ice losses that have been detected are a worrying reminder that the polar ice sheets are still experiencing dramatic changes, and will inevitably raise concerns about future global sea-level rise.” More

 

Global campaign launched to improve weather & climate services for small island developing states (SIDS)

A global campaign to improve weather and climate services for all small island developing states was launched today with the support of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and Digicel Pacific.

The Small Islands, Weather Together campaign (www.weathertogether.org) aims to show how the small island developing states of the world can work together to improve their vital weather and climate services.

In the Pacific region alone, extreme weather already accounts for 76% of all disasters with 50% directly related to cyclones. The increase in extreme weather events is also hampering the sustainable development of many small island developing states. For example, when Cyclone Evan hit Samoa in December 2012 it resulted in the loss of one third of the country’s entire annual economic output.

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud stresses that small island developing states need greater investment to further strengthen their vital weather and climate services and to ensure that efforts towards sustainable development are not wasted.

"If we don’t invest in stronger weather and climate services for small island developing states then extreme weather events could simply wipe out years of development effort if they are not well prepared. It is much more cost-effective to invest in early preparedness and prevention than to focus only on rehabilitation and post-disaster action," he asserted.

Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of weather and climate events – cyclones, typhoons, drought, flash floods – in many small island developing states. But many of their Meteorological Services still lack the basic infrastructure, technology and expertise they need to protect vulnerable island communities and economies.

For Mr. Jarraud, there is an urgent need to enhance the quality of early warnings for extreme weather. He pointed out that the formulation and dissemination of these warnings also need to be improved so that they can be understood and used by the island communities and government agencies.

In the Pacific islands, SPREP and other partners are working to improve communication of this type of information in partnership with national meteorological services, the media, including broadcast stations and communities.

"SPREP recognises that weather forecasts and warnings such as those given during tropical cyclones do not have a shelf life, they must be disseminated rapidly to the public or else they are useless," says SPREP Acting Director General Kosi Latu.

He further noted, "We can improve the quality of the forecasts and warnings so that countries and communities have more lead time to take action. But we can also improve the way climate information is used over longer time scales by farmers, fishermen and by decision-makers across government. For example, when planning new infrastructure, we can say ‘this place has a high risk of tsunami, flooding or storm surge, so don’t build things here’."

Mr. Jarraud recalls that the small developing island states stand to suffer more and more if the global community fails to agree to a limit in greenhouse gas emissions, the main human cause of climate change and global warming.

"Greenhouse gas emissions are still on the rise. We need to reach a peak of emission over the next 15–20 years, then to decrease dramatically to zero equivalent emission in about 50–60 years from now.

"This is a huge challenge. We must act now. The more we wait, the more difficult it will be, and, therefore, the more expensive it will be for countries to adapt to climate change. If we do not act now, we are agreeing to leave the small island developing states in a situation which may no longer be manageable," he warned.

The Small Islands, Weather Together campaign was launched specifically to coincide with the lead up to the United Nations Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, which will be held in Apia, Samoa, from 1–4 September, 2014.

For more information visit: www.weathertogether.org

 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Facing Rising Ocean, Pacific Island Town Must Relocate

In an unprecedented move that illustrates the dramatic impacts of planetary global warming, one community in the South Pacific has decided it has no choice but to pick itself up entirely and flee for higher ground.

All too aware of their vulnerability to the effects of climate change — such as rising sea levels and extreme weather events — communities in the Pacific Islands have long acknowledged that their very existence isthreatened by global warming.

But now, authorities in a town on Taro Island, a coral atoll off Choiseul in the Solomon Islands that sits less than seven feet above sea level, have decided to relocate to the mainland in response to increasing coastal hazards including tsunamis, storm surges, and erosion. The exodus from Choiseul Bay Township, the provincial capital that's currently home to about 500 people, will take place over many years. It is the first such official migration — of people, services, and facilities — in the Pacific Islands.

According to Reuters, "the groups behind the Choiseul adaptation plan said it is being hailed by the Solomon Islands national government as a model for other provinces across the nation and more broadly across the Pacific."

The plan comes out of Choiseul Bay Township's consultation with a team of engineers, scientists and planners, funded by the Australian government, on how best to adapt to the impact of climate change. Extensive community input was solicited, Choiseul Province premier Jackson Kiloe said in a statement Friday.

“Relocation is the only option available that will keep the community safe and will allow for future growth and prosperity of the capital and the province," said Philip Haines, project manager at BMT, an engineering firm that worked on the plan.

Land to build a new, larger settlement that could accommodate up to 5,000 inhabitants has already been acquired, Haines told Reuters. The town will essentially have to be built up from scratch, with a hospital and school expected to be constructed within five years. In the meantime, the plan prescribes detailed actions to increase the community’s resilience to climate change, including the preparation of a tsunami response plan, and the handover of a hand-wound siren to alert the local communities of a tsunami warning.

The Solomon Islands government would be looking for climate change funding from international donors to finance the relocation, Reuters reports.

Some of that funding could come from the U.S., which has millions invested in Asia-Pacific climate change adaptation, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pointed out when he visited the Solomon Islands just last week.

In remarks delivered in Honolulu last week, Kerry said:

I just came from the Solomon Islands yesterday, a thousand islands, some of which could be wiped out if we don’t make the right choices. The Pacific Islands across the entire Pacific are vulnerable to climate change. And just yesterday, I saw with my own eyes what sea level rise would do to parts of it: It would be devastating — entire habitats destroyed, entire populations displaced from their homes, in some cases entire cultures wiped out. They just had flash flooding in Guadalcanal — unprecedented amounts of rainfall. And that’s what’s happened with climate change — unprecedented storms, unprecedented typhoons, unprecedented hurricanes, unprecedented droughts, unprecedented fires, major damage, billions and billions of dollars of damage being done that we’re paying for instead of investing those billions of dollars in avoiding this in the first place. More

 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Small Caribbean Island Shows Bold Ocean Leadership: Barbuda Overhauls Reef and Fisheries Management for Sustainability

On August 12th, Barbuda Council signed into law a sweeping set of new ocean management regulations that zone their coastal waters, strengthen fisheries management, and establish a network of marine sanctuaries.

This comes after seventeen months of extensive community consultation and scientific research supported by the Waitt Institute. With these new policies, the small island of Barbuda has become a Caribbean ocean conservation leader and global role model. The regulations establish five marine sanctuaries, collectively protecting 33% (139 km2) of the coastal area, to enable fish populations to rebuild and habitats to recover. To restore the coral reefs, catching parrotfish and sea urchins has been completely prohibited, as those herbivores are critical to keeping algae levels on reefs low so coral can thrive. Barbuda is the first Caribbean island to put either of these bold and important measures in place.

“This will definitely benefit the people of Barbuda, and Antigua as well. No part of this is meant to hurt fishers. It’s the reverse – ensuring that they have a livelihood that will last in perpetuity,” said Arthur Nibbs, Chairman of the Barbuda Council and Antigua and Barbuda Minister of Fisheries.

Caribbean-wide, communities are seeing declines in the health of coastal ecosystems and fish populations. This negatively impacts economies, food security, and cultures. Visionary action like that shown in Barbuda is needed to manage the ocean sustainably, profitably, and enjoyably, for this and future generations. The coastal zones and fishing regulations reflect stakeholders’ priorities and are the outcome of a community-driven, science-based, and consensus-seeking process aiming to balance current and future needs to use ocean resources. More

 

Friday, August 15, 2014

For the Caribbean, a United Front Is Key to Weathering Climate Change

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten, Jul 2 2014 (IPS) - As the costs of climate change continue to mount, officials with the Commonwealth grouping say it is vital that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) stick together on issues such as per capita income classification.

Seawall in Dominica

Deputy Commonwealth Secretary General (Economic and Social Development) Deodat Maharaj told IPS the classification affects the ability of countries like Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and others to access financing from the international financial institutions.

“To my mind, the international system has to take special consideration of countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and others,” he said.

“The example I like to use is the example of Grenada. You would recall Hurricane Ivan about 10 years ago. It damaged about 70 percent of the housing stock in Grenada. It cost a billion U.S. dollars in damages, equivalent to two years GDP.

“So the countries in the Caribbean can move from high income or middle income to almost zero income with an economic shock or natural disaster,” Maharaj added.

Maharaj, whose appointment took effect earlier this year, said the Commonwealth is preparing “an analytical framework based on research, a case, so that countries such as Grenada when there is a natural disaster their international debt obligation for a particular period of time will be suspended so that they don’t have to continue to pay their debt when it is that they have suffered a natural disaster.”

On the issue of collaboration, one of only three female prime ministers in the Caribbean has reaffirmed her country’s commitment to dealing with climate change and all the issues associated with the global phenomena.

“I would like to reaffirm my strong belief in collaboration with other nations,” Sarah Wescot-Williams, the prime minister of St. Maarten, told IPS.

“Economic issues have forced us to look at ways and means of getting together and we are working collaboratively with other Caribbean nations to mitigate the effects of climate change as well as social issues of unemployment, crime and health.”

Prime Minister of St. Maarten Sarah Wescot-Williams (left)

St. Maarten recently developed and approved its National Energy Policy “and as such we have very specific goals and objectives to reach by 2020 in terms of reduction and promoting alternative, new green ideas, new green products,” Wescot-Williams explained.

She reiterated a point made while addressing regional leaders recently. “I told them we should not only look out for the bigger impacts of climate change or look at those developments as something that is far from us, far from our homes, but look at small things like beach erosion, something that St. Maarten is seeing.

“A report has been issued not very long ago indicating that unless specific measures are taken, a great part of what is now land will no longer be as far as the smaller islands, including St. Maarten, are concerned.”

How they are ranked by financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank is a major issue for Caribbean countries.

Camillo Gonsalves, a former ambassador to the United Nations, says it affects these countries’ ability to secure the required funding to effectively deal with climate change.

He noted that most Caribbean countries are ranked as middle-income countries, and using that metric alone makes his country, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with its one-billion-dollar Gross Domestic Product (GDP), “richer than China”.

“If that is the metric by which we determine economic health and access to concessionary financing, and our ability to borrow ourselves out of a crisis or to spend ourselves out of a crisis, it is clearly a flawed measure,” he said.

He noted that within three hours last Christmas Eve, a trough system left damage and loss in St. Vincent equal to 17 percent of GDP, while the country also suffered natural disasters in 2010, and 2011 – the loss and damage from each of which was in double digits.

This, however, is the measure by which the World Bank, the IMF determine the economic strength of Caribbean countries, Gonsalves said, adding that these international institutions do not consider the region’s vulnerabilities.

“The Caribbean small island developing states are among the most heavily indebted states in the world,” Gonsalves said, noting that the debt-to-GDP ratio in the region ranges from 20 percent in Haiti – which received significant debt forgiveness after the 2010 earthquake – to 139 percent in Jamaica, with St. Kitts and Nevis and Grenada at 105 and 115 per cent, respectively, even as the European Union has set itself a debt-to-GDP ratio of 65 per cent.

“If your debt-to-GDP ratio is 139 percent and you are struck by a natural disaster… how do you borrow yourself out of that crisis? Where do you find money immediately to build your roads, your houses, your bridges, your hospitals that have been damaged? How can you set money aside in preparation for the next climate event if you have a debt to GDP ratio of over 100 per cent or approaching 100 per cent, and your debt servicing charges are that high?” Gonsalves said.

Agreeing with Wescot-Williams and Maharaj that there is strength in unity, Gonsalves, who serves as foreign affairs minister for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said the upcoming Third United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Samoa is an ideal opportunity for regional countries to do more than just talk about collaboration.

“The issue of how we are ranked and classified has to be rectified – not addressed, not flagged, not considered. It has to be rectified in Samoa. That has to be one of our prime objectives going into this conference,” he said.

The Samoa conference will be held from Sep. 1-4 under the theme “The Sustainable Development of Small Island States Through Genuine and Durable Partnerships”.

It will seek to assess progress and remaining gaps; renew political commitment by focusing on practical and pragmatic actions for further implementation; identify new and emerging challenges and opportunities for the sustainable development of SIDS and means of addressing them; and identify priorities for the sustainable development of SIDS to be considered in the elaboration of the post-2015 U.N. development agenda.

Maharaj said “one big challenge” for his organisation is the advancement of the interest of small states.

“When I think about the Caribbean and I think about development…we need to think about development not only in terms of five years, 10 years or 15 years,” he said.

“I would like to think about and imagine what will the Caribbean be in the year 2050 at the time when our grand- and great-grandchildren will be around and many of us won’t be here,” Maharaj added. More

 

WMO Launches SIDS Website

 

WMOAugust 2014: The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has launched a small island developing States (SIDS) website to highlight its work with SIDS, given that they are low-lying and vulnerable to weather- and climate-related hazards, such as tropical cyclones, floods and droughts.


The website features: a media corner, highlighting the most recent information on SIDS; links to WMO SIDS publications, including ‘Saving Paradise: Ensuring Sustainable Development' and ‘The SIDS Caribbean Project: Preparedness to Climate Variability and Global Change in SIDS of the Caribbean Region;' and information on WMO side events to be convened at the Third International Conference on SIDS, taking place in Apia, Samoa, from 1-4 September 2014.


WMO supports SIDS in developing: adequate structures and building capacity to ensure that information is available in a timely manner to address issues such as coastal zone management, energy, environmental degradation, tourism and climate change; and scientifically sound and culturally sensitive early warning systems. It further supports national meteorological and hydrological services (NMHSs) in SIDS to help access the most sophisticated products in real-time and forecasts of extreme weather events several days in advance. [WMO SIDS Website]



read more: http://sids-l.iisd.org/news/wmo-launches-sids-website/#more-254872


 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Geneva beckons Rolph Payet - Seychelles environment and energy minister lands top UN post

(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles Minister for Environment and Energy, Professor Rolph Payet has been appointed the new Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.


Announcing the appointment in a press statement this afternoon, State House said Payet will contribute to the implementation of the mandates and missions of those three conventions including the formulation of their overall strategies and policies.

"He will also act in an advisory capacity to the UNEP Executive Director and the Presidents and the Bureaus of the conventions as well as their subsidiary bodies," reads the statement.

The environment minister’s role will also include coordinating the preparation of the meetings and implement the substantive work programme of the conventions, including providing assistance to parties, in particular developing country parties and those with economies in transition.

He will also lead the development of strategies and policies and undertake fund raising and donor reporting, the strategic interagency work of the Secretariat in close coordination with UNEP and other Multilateral Environmental Agreements.

Responding to SNA in an email following this afternoon's announcement, Payet said he is deeply honoured of such confidence in him to lead the conventions.

"I am equally happy that I have been chosen, coming from a Small Island Developing States, during this year dedicated to SIDS. My appointment represents the hard work of President James Michel and the government of Seychelles to continuously push so that Seychelles remains a leader in environment on the international scene. I will miss my work and even though I will be away from Seychelles I will continue to work for the benefit of my country," he said.

Payet will take up his new post in October this year and he will be based in Geneva.

He will replace Kerstin Stendahl from Finland, who has been serving as interim since April this year following the retirement of US national Jim Willis as the Executive Director of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

The Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

The first convention is aimed at protecting human health and the environment from the effects of hazardous wastes.

This convention was adopted in 1989 and it entered into force in 1992.

The Rotterdam Convention, which entered into force ten years ago, also deals with the disposal of waste especially pesticides and industrial chemicals.

The third one, the Stockholm Convention which also came into force 10 years ago is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods. The latter or POPs is said to have serious consequences on humans and wildlife.

Seychelles president hails Payet’s appointment as "a memorable achievement."

Seychelles President James Michel has hailed Payet’s appointment which he describes as "a memorable achievement."

In a congratulatory message sent to the minister, Michel has wished him success in his new role and expressed his full cooperation and support in his tasks and challenges that lie ahead.

"Your appointment to this high office is a well-deserved recognition of your scientific and academic capabilities and crowns a professional life devoted to the environment and to the cause of Small Island Developing States. It also brings immense pride and satisfaction to Seychelles," said Michel in the statement.

Michel said he would announce a new minister for environment and energy at a later date.

Payet and the environment cause

The 46 year old leaves vacant the portfolio of Environment and Energy which he assumed in March 2012.

Before that he was Special Advisor to the president on numerous environmental matters including sustainable development, biodiversity, climate change, energy and international environment policy

Payet who holds a Phd in Environmental Science from Linnaeus University of which is now an Associate Professor, is described as a leader in the protection of the environment on the international scene.

He has been at the forefront of several international discussions on issues affecting small islands developing states such as climate change, sustainable development, biodiversity and other environmental issues.

In recent years, he has been invited to participate or as a guest speaker on numerous international conference committees and panels including the United Nations General Assembly.

He has also contributed widely towards several publications on environmental issues.

Payet’s work in advancing environment, islands, ocean, biodiversity and climate issues at the global level has earned him numerous international awards and recognition.

In January 2007, he was recognised as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and in November that same year he shared in the IPCC Nobel Peace Prize as one of the authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Locally, Payet has also helped to set up Seychelles first university, the University of Seychelles which was set up in September 2009. He is currently the pro chancellor of the university. More

 

 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Has the era of the ‘climate change refugee’ begun?

A far-flung scattering of islands in a turquoise sea, Tuvalu is one of the planets' smallest and most remote nations, just west of the International Date Line, just south of the equator.

Funafuti, Tuvalu

Tuvalu's coastline consists of white and sandy beaches, green palm trees and mangroves. It is hard to imagine that anybody would want to leave this small island nation, located between Australia and Hawaii, voluntarily. But Tuvalu has become the epicenter of a landmark refugee ruling that could mark the beginning of a wave of similar cases: On June 4, a family was granted residency by the Immigration and Protection Tribunal in New Zealand after claiming to be threatened by climate change in its home country, Tuvalu. The news was first reported by the New Zealand Herald on Sunday.

The small Pacific island nation sits just two meters above sea level. If the current sea level rise continues, experts believe the island might disappear in approximately 30 to 50 years. Tuvalu shares this existential threat with many other island nations and coastal regions, which have struggled for years to raise international awareness about their tragic plight. Predictions for climate change-induced displacement range widely from 150 to 300 million people by 2050, with low-income countries having the far largest burden of disaster-induced migration, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center.

Those threatened by sea-level rise, droughts or other natural catastrophes face an epochal problem: Victims of climate change are not recognized as refugees by the International Refugee Convention. In the Tuvalu case, Sigeo Alesana and his family reportedly left the island nation in 2007 and moved to New Zealand, where they lost their legal status in 2009. The family was not able to obtain work visas and had to apply for refugee and protected persons status in 2012. Although the claims were dismissed in March 2013 and an appeal was turned down, the family's case was finally approved. The case was closely followed by immigration and environmental lawyers all over the world.

Sigeo Alesana and his wife claimed before the tribunal that climate change had made life in Tuvalu more difficult due to much more frequently occurring inundations, that caused coastal erosion and made it difficult to grow crops. The tribunal explicitly mentioned climate change in its assessment saying that Alesana's children were particularly "vulnerable to natural disasters and the adverse impact of climate change."

"I don't see it as delivering any kind of 'verdict' on climate change as such," says Vernon Rive, a Senior Lecturer in Law at AUT Law School in Auckland. The New Zealand decision is very specific because the family based its application for residency on three arguments, Rive says. First, the family members claimed to be refugees; second, they argued to be "protected people", and third, the family said its case fell under "exceptional humanitarian grounds." Each of these arguments is based on an existing convention regarding refugees, but the family only succeeded because it claimed "exceptional humanitarian grounds," which is a wording recognized in New Zealand's immigration legislation but not by many other governments.

In its judgment the New Zealand tribunal surprisingly acknowledged the humanitarian consequences of climate change among other factors, such as the presence of an elderly mother who required care. In its conclusion, however, the tribunal refrained from singling out climate change and stated that other factors would already have been sufficient to grant residency to the family. In other words: The tribunal avoided a clear decision on whether climate change can or cannot be reason enough for refugees to be granted residency. The mere fact that the tribunal mentioned the impacts of global warming as a contributing factor to the ruling is nevertheless remarkable. "What this decision will not do is open the gates to all people from places such as Kiribati, Tuvalu and Bangladesh who may suffer hardship because of the impacts of climate change," Rive says.

While the tribunal's decision may not have the same impact everywhere, it could send a strong signal to a number of nations, such as Sweden and Finland, that often grant asylum to people affected by natural disasters. According to French climate change migration expert Fran├žois Gemenne, governments need to get to grips with the reality of climate change refugees, irrespective of legal conventions. "I believe that bilateral or regional arrangements are going to become necessary," says Gemenne, suggesting a raft of agreements will need to be put into place, between nations and among geopolitical blocs, that will ensure the protection of those displaced by rising waters.

But will there eventually be open doors for the victims of climate change? Some of the countries endangered by climate change fear that their citizens could effectively become "second class" citizens abroad. As a consequence, the island nation Kiribati – itself at risk from climate change – has set up a "Migration with Dignity" program which involves training its citizens as highly-skilled workers who are needed and welcomed in other countries if and when the residents of Kiribati are forced to move.

The recent New Zealand ruling could give smaller nations stronger leverage on the international stage. But do the world's leading statesmen, beset by a host of other crises, care? Michael Gerrard, Director for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, puts current progress in perspective: "The world community has not even begun to grapple with what is to come," he tells WorldViews in an e-mail. More

 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

UN Releases Six Briefs for SIDS Conference Partnership Dialogues

The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) has released a series of six briefing papers on priority themes for discussion during the Third International Conference on Small Island Development States (SIDS), set to take place in Apia, Samoa, from 1-4 September 2014.

August 2014: The SIDS conference will include six multi-stakeholder 'Partnership Dialogues' intended to strengthen existing partnerships and promote new ones. The UN briefing papers correspond to the partnership dialogue themes of: sustainable economic development; climate change and disaster risk management; social development in SIDS, health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), youth and women; sustainable energy; oceans, seas and biodiversity; water and sanitation, food security and waste management. The papers suggest a wide range of opportunities that could be addressed through new or existing partnerships, especially public-private collaborations.

On sustainable economic development, the authors propose conducting investment impact monitoring, and establishing regional SIDS programmes to promote investment through public-private partnerships.

On climate change and disaster risk management, the authors suggest the adoption of risk financing instruments, such as contingency funds and insurance, as part of spatial and development planning initiatives.

On social development, they note that obesity and diabetes rates are "staggering" in the Pacific, and they aim to prevent premature morbidity and mortality from NCDs, including measures to protect SIDS from the negative impacts of bilateral and global trade agreements. They also aim to make education more relevant, and to improve labor market access and secure quality jobs for young people.

On sustainable energy, the authors recommend supporting an enabling environment for sustainable energy markets; facilitating access to modern, affordable and reliable energy services for rural households; decreasing reliance on fossil fuel imports; and improving women's access to renewable and cost-effective energy.

On oceans, they recommend addressing the impacts of ocean acidification and climate change, promoting inclusive and sustainable development of local economies using the oceans, preventing marine and land-based pollution, and reversing the decline in fish stocks.

On water and sanitation, they propose strengthening regional mechanisms for managing hazardous wastes and ship-generated wastes; promoting resource efficiency as a means to reduce the generation of waste and wastewater, and incorporating climate information into practices and policies for supporting agriculture and food security. [Partnership Dialogue Briefs] [SIDS Conference Website] [SIDS Partnerships Platform]